Hopping on Vikings bandwagon can help drive economy, profs say — that is, if they win

Fan enthusiasm when the Vikings do well can help produce a more productive workplace and add an economic boost, two professors say.

REUTERS/Eric Miller
Fan enthusiasm when the Vikings do well can help produce a more productive workplace and add an economic boost, two professors say.

Not only did the Vikings win Sunday — if barely — but local productivity and wages are likely to rise because of the victory.

Not only did the Vikings beat the hapless Lions, but owner Zygi Wilf might have gained some nuanced ammunition to justify public funds for a new stadium.

On the other hand — as economists say — public officials might have gained leverage to demand that Wilf field a successful team before anyone starts hearings at the Legislature about a new $1 billion facility.

That’s what a fascinating new study suggests — and concludes.

Educators offer ‘A Winning Proposition’
Economist Michael C. Davis, of the Missouri University of Science and Technology, and psychologist Christian M. End, of Xavier (Ohio) University, released a paper titled, “A Winning Proposition: The Economic Impact of Successful NFL Franchises.”

It’s not about the tired, oft-debated notion that teams and stadiums trigger all sorts of wild-eyed new spending in the state.

No, this is about how fans feel better and work harder after their beloved team wins and how a fan’s work — even an entire community’s work — generates more wages, perhaps as much as $165 per person per year.

About enough to buy a couple of good Vikings’ tickets.

If you agree with Professors Davis and End, Sunday’s Vikings victory is a pint-sized economic stimulus package.

The Davis-End study builds on previous research by other scholars.

One earlier economic study contended that Super Bowl-winning communities experience some income growth.

Meanwhile, earlier psychological studies revealed that fans who recently saw their team win gained higher “mental, social and motor skills” than fans who watched their favorite team lose; fans also “reported a decrease in self-esteem” after their team lost.

Davis and End merged the dollars with the senses, using high-brow formulas and years of NFL and economic data. They concluded that: “[A]n increase in the winning percentage of the local NFL franchise increases the real per capita personal income of the city … One possible explanation for this relationship is that workplace productivity increases as a function of team success.”

Here’s the concept: When an NFL team like the Vikings wins a game, fans feel good about the victory. They feel more competent and alert. That translates into increased productivity and, ultimately, into increased wages.

Winning teams have more fans. More fans make a bandwagon. Bandwagons drive good vibes.

“One of our universal needs is belonging to groups,” End told MinnPost in an interview. And when your team is winning, we are fam-i-lee.

Winning ways only go so far
Curiously, Davis and End concluded, as the number of victories rises, the impact on productivity and personal income flattens. So, one victory means $30.86 in increased personal income. But as a team gains consistent success, each victory means a little bit less euphoria and a resulting smaller economic impact. By the time the home team gets to victory 10, it’s worth only $2.15 per capita in income growth.

When a team gets to 11 victories, there’s a backward slide on impact.

Thus, for the sake of the state’s economy, Vikings, please, win 10 games this season, and only 10.

Davis and End write that the NFL’s parity has some social and economic good.  That is, if every team in the league could win between six and 10 games, that might just maximize the economic impact across NFL cities.

Once a dominant team, such as the Patriots, wins 14 or 16 games, then the benefit to the Boston area is relatively reduced and moves to some other team in the league with two or three wins.

“The parity that currently exists in the NFL, and sometimes condemned as mediocrity, is actually good for the economics of the cities that host NFL franchises,” they write. “These findings suggest that cities should encourage the NFL to incorporate policies to maintain competitive balance.”

OK, what about stinkeroo teams like the Cincinnati Bengals or Oakland Raiders? Do the economies of their cities suffer because those teams lose all the time?

“There’s an opportunity cost,” said End. “You’re not getting the potential benefit that you could if the team were winning.”

At the same time, the wheels fall off the bandwagon. The number of fans is reduced because of the constant defeats.

In psych professor lingo, End said, “Their identification drops.”

Rabid or “high-identifying fans who name their kids after Randy Moss”  might have to deal with a downbeat mood swing on a Sunday. But many casual fans probably cope by becoming emotionally distant when the home team really stinks.

Davis and End looked at Major League Baseball and the NBA, too. They didn’t find any correlation in income growth and team success. It could be because there are so many baseball games and NBA games. The NFL’s popularity and once-a-week hit allow for emotional spikes.

In, perhaps, the most provocative conclusion of the academic paper, these scholars weigh in on stadium financing, something near and dear to Minnesota fans’ hearts.

“Cities might want to consider making the [funding] contribution towards stadium financing dependent upon the success of the team,” the scholars recommended.

The logic: The better the team, the more productive the fans, the more prosperous the community. Perhaps that increased per capita income can offset some of the public funding for the stadium.

But only if the team wins.

In an interview, End said he got some “hate mail” about this recommendation from those who read it as some sort of blanket support for publicly funded stadiums.

Au contraire, End said. “What this [research] argues is that if you have an NFL team, you should put pressure on the ownership to produce a winning product.”

Remember that: The Vikings win, your wages go up. But it’s all up to Zygi.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Spadafora Spadafora on 10/13/2008 - 12:44 pm.

    What would be the psychological impact of losing an NFL franchise?

    Would productivity suffer?

    Would businesses be less able to attract top talent if MN didn’t have an NFL team?

    How many dollars would escape MN when sports fans spent their disposible income elsewhere?

    I’m said the funding of professional sports ventures should be based on benefit for over 10 years.

    Who benefits? Team owners, businesses & frequent fans, and the general public benefit.

    Team owners and the general public aren’t the missing stadium funding sources…. businesses and frequent fans are.

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