The Chargers claim they are only pursuing a new stadium in Los Angeles because it makes fiscal sense for the franchise. But, given San Diego’s sudden outpouring of support to keep the team here and L.A.’s history of not batting an eye when a football team leaves, one basic but overlooked question has to be asked:
Is Los Angeles a better financial option for an NFL franchise than San Diego is?
The answer to that is not as simple as it seems.
“A big premise for this has to be the number of corporations that might be available up there to sell luxury boxes and do all your marketing,” says George Belch, Professor of Sports Advertising and Marketing at San Diego State University.
“If you look at the size of the market, you have more companies up there, and you have the potential for more eyeballs. That’s what marketers pay for; eyeballs to have their messages or signage seen.”
A simple look at the size of the populations shows Los Angeles has a much larger pond to fish in. Add to that the presence of several more Fortune 500 companies in the L.A. area and it seems like a given that an NFL team would thrive there. But, there is a flip side to that.
“While it’s a big market, it hasn’t proved, necessarily, to be the best market for the NFL,” says Belch. “If the Chargers went in there, it would possibly be as second-fiddle to the Raiders. There may be more brand equity for the Raiders. We don’t know that exactly but there seems to be more support for the Raiders up there than the Chargers.”
While the Chargers claim 25-percent of their business comes from the Los Angeles and Orange County areas, there is zero doubt they have less of a brand name there than the Raiders do (just watch the video of the pep rally in Carson and count the difference in Raiders and Chargers jerseys). And don’t be so sure the sheer volume of available funds will overcome the lack of a community love connection.
“You have a lot of companies in L.A., but I don’t know that L.A. has proven to be a mecca for sponsorships. I don’t really see it.”
Plus, there is an awful lot of competition in Los Angeles. The Dodgers and Lakers are traditional mainstays. The Clippers, Kings and Ducks are in the middle of successful runs. USC and UCLA are Top-25 football programs with strong traditions. Even though the NFL is king in America, it’s unwise to think corporations will abandon something good to throw cash at the new kids in town.
“Companies have a finite amount of resources that they’re going to spend. We know the NFL is the most popular sport out there, but you still need to get people to connect to your team. If you walk in there with two teams, it becomes very challenging to win over the fans.”
None of this even takes in to account the possibility of a Rams move to L.A.
Aside from money, fan loyalty is another major factor to consider.
To identify the best places for football fans, WalletHub analyzed 142 U.S. cities with at least one college or professional football team based on 11 key metrics, ranging from the number of NFL and college football teams to average ticket prices. Here’s what Wallethub found out about being a football fan in San Diego.
Being a Football Fan in San Diego (1=Best, 71=Avg.):
• 3rd – Number of NFL & College Football (FBS) Teams
• 43rd – Performance Quality of Teams
• 17th – Average Ticket Price for an NFL Game
• 11th – Minimum Season Ticket Price for College Football Game
• 23rd – Number of Championships Won
• 10th – Number of Division Championships Won
• 64th – Fan Friendliness & Engagement on Social Media
• 25th – Franchise Value of NFL Teams
Overall that means San Diego came in 18th on the list, just behind Baltimore, MD, and just ahead of Kansas City, MO. Know where L.A. ranked on the list?
Tied for 97th with Salt Lake City, UT. Los Angeles was able to edge out Toledo, OH but finished one spot behind Muncie, IN.
This interactive map from WalletHub shows where all 142 cities rank:
Now, you’d have to imagine the city would climb on the list if it added an NFL team or two to its resume, but findings like this should give the Chargers pause.
They might not be getting the deal they want in San Diego right now; but, they might not find the grass any greener up north on a toxic waste dump in Carson.