Bengals fans never seem to get much credit on a national level. This article depicts why that might be, although there are some positive signs too.
Yahoo released an article ranking the strength of each NFL team’s fanbase. Instead of using guesswork to arbitrarily rank the teams, though, Yahoo used a data-driven formula to rank the teams. They used three different categories, each of which was weighted equally. The three categories were “fan equity” (how much fans spent on their team through tickets, merchandise, etc.), “social equity” (how many followers the team and players have on social media), and “road equity” (how well do the teams draw in other cities). Unfortunately, the Bengals did not do very well in Yahoo!’s fan rankings.
Overall, Bengals fans ranked 26th out of 32 teams. The only teams they beat out were both Los Angeles teams, Cleveland (whew), Jacksonville, Kansas City, and Tennessee. That the team place relatively low in the rankings in not too surprising, although I did expect them to be a bit higher. Teams like Indianapolis, Miami, Buffalo, Carolina, and Arizona all ranked higher than Cincinnati. With the Bengals’ relatively recent success, I would have thought they would be higher than most of those teams.
Regardless, there are two clear trends that emerge from these rankings, and neither are shocking. The best fanbases have: a) a long history of success, and b) a large metropolitan area. Dallas, New England, and Philadelphia comprise the top three, and none of these teams are a surprise. Historically great franchises like the Broncos and Packers, who don’t necessarily have the largest cities, make up for it with Super Bowls. Both rank in the top ten. Likewise, teams like the Bears and Jets, who have weathered some poor season recently, still rank highly because of their city size.
The Bengals, therefore, are at a natural disadvantage. Cincinnati pales in comparison to cities like New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia in size. However, the city is not so small to where the franchise is “the only show in town,” like in Buffalo or Green Bay. Furthermore, the Bengals do not have a lot of prior success. In two Super Bowl trips, they have come up empty. The five-year stretch of playoff appearances from 2011-2015 was by far the best run in franchise history. Because the Bengals succeed in neither of the two criteria, this ranking is not surprising.
There are some bits of good news in these rankings, though. Bengals fans ranked near league average in social and road equity (21st and 20th, respectively). Having good social equity means the fans the Bengals do have (you guys!) are more hardcore than other franchises’ fans. For instance, the Saints have the 7th ranked fanbase, but only rank 13th in social equity. That means the Saints have a lot more fair-weather fans than a team like the Bengals. Also, having good road equity means that the Bengals fanbase is nicely spread out.
Overall, having a ranking of 26th is a little disappointing, but there is a silver lining from this Yahoo article. I think it paints a good picture of Bengals fans: there might not be a ton of us, but we do care about our team.