Study finds fans like built winners who stay for multiple years on their team

Published: Mar. 24, 2021 at 7:28 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - An online survey found most people are fans of teams that build championships -- not buy them.

They prefer colleges with student-athletes who stay four-or-five years, rather than the one-and-done prospects. A survey filled out by 1,500 people shows they prefer teams like the San Antonio Spurs who had the same core players for years and years rather than the Miami Heat team that seemed to “buy” their wins.

Kansas University Psychology Professor Chris Crandall said it has to do with the American dream of working hard for what you want.

“There are great stories like Rudy, where in that case he stays with the team a long time, he works very hard, he gets one shining bright moment, it’s fantastic,” he said. “The story isn’t compelling if he’s just lucky. If he just stumbles into it.”

He and his colleagues wanted to find out why sports fans are enticed by the love for a team. They found teams that develop athletes from youth over multiple years to great athletes is preferred. Rather than going out and bringing in a star talent and seeing them leave after one year. Especially in professional sports.

“People think that you’re working harder, that the team is built on effort and determination and skill and perseverance and fans like that better than just bringing in a bright, shining star with a high paycheck,” he said.

He said there’s no reason to believe it’s just pro sports, but college athletics as well.

At KU, they had a long history of not having one-and-done players come to Lawrence. Sherron Collins, Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison, Frank Mason, DeVonte’ Graham and recently Marcus Garrett.

In recent years, they’ve gotten some recruits that left rather soon – Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Devon Dotson, Josh Jackson to name a few.

“You’ll find fan commitment is strongest for the people who are seniors, for the students that stay here the whole time and work the whole time and be a part of the team the whole time,” he said. “You get a sense of loyalty to them because you see loyalty from them to the institution and the team.”

He compared the struggle to movies like, “Rudy.” Where a Notre Dame walk-on who is famously, “Five-foot-nothing, a hundred-and-nothing and has barely a speck of athletic ability,” got his shining moment on the Fighting Irish football team.

“It’s a wonderful story because we really value hard work, it’s part of our American story and sports is reflecting the American story in part. We really like people who work hard, who struggle and then win,” he said.

In professional team terms, he used the Chicago Cubs baseball team. He said people love the Cubs but they are particularly winners historically but they keep their players a long time, develop a loyalty to them and it shows with fans keeping their loyalty to the organization.

“Some of the myth with the Cubs is that they don’t buy the superstars that come in and that might actually break the contract with the fan, it might make them feel like they’re just reaching for wins instead of putting on a good team, putting on a good show, being part of Chicago,” he said.

Kansas City Chiefs fans can feel this way, especially after losing to the Tom Brady led Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl.

“They simply bought a star, or a couple of stars, and off they got to win the Super Bowl, that’s just a deep pocket book, that’s not a team, a struggle, a story that we have here in the Kansas City area,” he said.

A lot of us may not be the athlete of all athletes in their town, city, county or state said Crandall. This is why when people see athletes stay for long periods of time for one team and deal with the struggles that come with it – the win is that much more special, bringing loyalty to the team and the fans.

“Most of us are not the top two talent of most things and to see the possibility of going from short, small but committed to success is a great story. It does bring us in, it does make us feel good about America and it makes it feel possible for ourselves,” he said.

Their study asked 1,500 people online, who were paid to take part in the survey.

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