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The Colts finished No. 1 among teams in the four major sports in ESPN The Magazine's sixth annual survey ranking how 'the Big Four Pro Teams Reward Fans for Love, Loyalty and Money.' The rankings will be featured in a story in the magazine available beginning Wednesday.


Colts No. 1 in ESPN The Magazine Survey Ranking Major STeams

INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts for nearly a decade have been one of professional sports' most successful franchises.

Now, according to ESPN, they're the most fan-friendly, too.

The Colts, a playoff team each of the past six seasons and Super Bowl champions following the 2006 season, finished first among teams in the four major sports in ESPN The Magazine's sixth annual survey ranking how "the Big Four Pro Teams Reward Fans for Love, Loyalty and Money."

"We are flattered by this nice honor," Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim Irsay said. "It is really a tribute to the dedication, hard work and creativity of everyone in our organization."

The rankings will be featured in a story in the magazine available on newsstands beginning Wednesday, April 23.

"No team gives as much back to fans for the emotion, money and time they invest as Jim Irsay's club does," the magazine writes.

The magazine refers to the results as its "Ultimate Standings," which according to ESPN The Magazine writer Peter Keating are decided in a four-step process:

1) Markitecture – a Norwalk, Conn.-based marketing consulting firm – conducted a poll of 1,000 fans across North America to determine what they want most in return for their emotional and financial investment in their favorite teams. The survey covered 21 topics, from "has strong leader as coach" to "provides avenues for fan feedback."

2) Through, the magazine asked fans of MLB (baseball), NBA (basketball), NFL and NHL (hockey) teams to rate their clubs in these 21 areas of performance. More than 60,000 responses were gathered, then grouped into seven broad categories.

3) The magazine then created an eighth category – "Bang for the Buck" – in which it examined how efficiently teams convert dollars from fans into on-field victories (regular and postseason). Fan costs were determined by researchers at the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon.

4) Finally, the magazine combined each team's scores – not rankings – across all eight categories into a final, "weighted score" – taking into account, for example, that fans rated "Affordability" as about 67 percent more important than "Stadium Experience."

The result, Keating said, is a ranking that combines the fan perspective with an objective measure of how well teams turn fan dollars into wins.

The Colts ranked No. 1 in the NFL and No. 1 overall in the survey after ranking fourth overall last season. Other NFL teams in the Top 10 were the Green Bay Packers (fourth) and Jacksonville Jaguars (ninth).

Teams from others sports in the Top 10 were: the San Antonio Spurs (basketball) at No. 2, the New Orleans Hornets (basketball) at No. 3, the Anaheim Ducks (hockey) at No. 5, the Los Angeles Angels (baseball) at No. 6, the Detroit Tigers (baseball) at No. 7, the Detroit Pistons (basketball) at No. 8 and the Arizona Diamondbacks (baseball) at No. 10.

"These are all teams that fans in all kinds of different ways just know that management, fans, players and ownership are all committed and not ripping them off," Keating told on Wednesday.

The Colts, according to the magazine, ranked fourth overall last year, and this season rank among the Top 25 in seven of the eight categories.

"Any bad team can luck into a Hall of Famer with a good draft pick," Keating said. "When this team got (quarterback) Peyton Manning, they were not doing a good job selling season tickets. They were not doing a good job connecting with fans. They were coming of a 3-13 season.

"What they did – and you can see it over the last decade and certainly in the years we've been doing this study – is they built players around Manning: offensive line, receivers and now a defense. They've shown loyalty to those players, so you get home-grown stars. They also have drafted hard-working players, which fans appreciate.

"At the same time, they have kept prices down. They have managed to keep prices affordable while they have built this team of hard-working, really talented professionals."

They ranked No. 3 in Bang for the Buck, while ranking in the Top 10 in three other categories – Fan Relations (eighth), Players (eighth) and Coaching (ninth). They ranked in the Top 20 in three other categories: Ownership (11th), title track (15th), ownership (11th) and affordability (15th).

The lone area in which they did not rank in the Top 20 was "Stadium Experience," in which the Colts ranked 66th.

"Fans love it when they see that commitment," Keating said. "You don't need to win a championship every year. You need to show fans they're getting something for their money and their time.

"When you put hard-working players at a good price together, you have a great product. The Colts rank right up there."

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