For the second consecutive year, the Hawks have placed in the top five of the nationwide fan "loyalty" poll conducted by a New York marketing firm.

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Inside sports business

Three seasons removed from their lone Super Bowl victory, the Seahawks have nonetheless maintained one of the NFL’s most marketable brands.

So says Brand Keys, a longstanding New York firm that develops high-end predictive marketing metrics. Brand Keys has conducted nationwide fan “loyalty” polling in all four major sports the past 24 years. It also sells data to leagues and companies looking to invest in team-related sponsorships.

This year’s survey, released last week as the NFL season kicked off, had the Seahawks ranked No. 4 of 32 teams in fan devotion to their brand. Though down one spot from last September’s survey, it’s the second consecutive year the Seahawks have placed in the top five.

NFL fan loyalty


1. N. England (No. 1 last year)

2. Denver (4)

3. Green Bay (2)

4. Seattle (3)

5. San Francisco (6)


28. Tampa Bay (30)

29. Washington (29)

30. Oakland (32)

31. Jacksonville (31)

32. Cleveland (28)

Source: Brand Keys

And that, according to Brand Keys founder and president Robert Passikoff, is a sign of a solid, long-term business strategy.

“It isn’t only about wins and losses,’’ Passikoff says. “There is so much more that goes into it.’’

Not surprisingly, the top five in the 2016 Brand Keys Sports Fan Loyalty Index reads like NFL royalty. The New England Patriots are back at No. 1 for the second consecutive year, followed by the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, the Green Bay Packers and the Seahawks.

All were in last year’s top five.

Rounding out this year’s top five is the San Francisco 49ers — proof of how the list is about more than recent wins and losses. After two years of abysmal on-field showings, it’s easy to forget the 49ers are a legacy team with a fan base remembering five Super Bowl wins, a finalist appearance three years ago and that memorable NFC title clash with the Seahawks in January 2014.

Passikoff says such history and tradition buys leeway and forms the biggest of four key elements measured within the loyalty index — accounting for 30 percent of the total ranking. The Seahawks, despite most of their success coming since their Super Bowl debut in 2006, fared well in this category because they’ve been consistently good this past decade and captivated the city with traditions such as the “12th Man.”

Fan bonding — whether a team’s players are respected and admired — counts for 29 percent. The Seahawks have employed instantly recognizable figures such as Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and the now-retired Marshawn Lynch.

Conversely, your average NFL fan might have trouble naming a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The index attributes 21 percent of a team’s ranking to its delivery of “pure entertainment” whether winning or losing. Passikoff says having an aggressive team, such as the Seahawks and their “Legion of Boom’’ defense, certainly helps.

The grade’s final 20 percent is based on “authenticity” — whether fans have confidence that team performance is sustainable and not a fluke.

Brand Keys does professional telephone polling of 150 to 200 hardcore fans in each NFL market, which questioners will have pre-screened based on passion for their home team and liking pro football over all other sports.

Passikoff says it’s all about determining whether fan devotion can translate into spending on products associated with teams. Every city claims diehard fans, but getting them to part with cash for team merchandise — or products sold by team sponsors — is complicated.

Last April, we wrote about the Major League Baseball loyalty survey by Brand Keys, in which the Mariners finished last. Some fans wrote in here complaining the survey inferred they were “disloyal” or somehow at fault, but Passikoff says the onus for these rankings is completely on teams.

Those with sustained success and an entertaining product, he says, build a reservoir of fan goodwill to ride out lean years. Conversely, the Mariners, with MLB’s longest playoff drought at 15 years and a managerial carousel, have struggled with brand strength.

So have the Cleveland Browns, who enjoy some of the most devoted and knowledgeable fans in football. They’ve been a recent train wreck on the field and in off-field decision-making.

Again, it’s not about the Browns gobbling up championships in the 1950s and 60s. It’s whether the present-day attachment and confidence fans feel for the club is strong enough to make a multimillion-dollar sponsorship worth it for corporations.

Hence, the Browns — like the Mariners — finished last in the Brand Keys survey.

But the Seahawks have big-name sponsors lining up to attach themselves to the team’s brand however possible. Delta Air Lines, for instance, last week announced a unique “12STATUS” mileage plan awarding frequent flier points to registered fans based on the home passing yardage by quarterback Wilson.

The Seahawks had resided near the bottom tier of Brand Keys surveys but jumped from No. 20 to No. 16 after making the January 2013 divisional playoff round.

After winning their first Super Bowl a year later, they cracked the top 10 at No. 6. Then, even after losing the ensuing Super Bowl to the Patriots, they began last season at their high-water No. 3 mark.

A consistent feature has been coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider, Wilson, Sherman, Lynch and other recognizable names.

“This isn’t something where you jump from No. 20 to No. 1 because you had one great year,’’ Passikoff says. “It’s about steady success built up over time in a number of areas.’’

Also, about teams not taking fans for granted. They might not win Super Bowls annually, but the Seahawks usually give diehard “12s’’ good reason to be a much looser with their wallets.