It may be a Red Sox Nation, but is it a Yankee Universe?

The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, have a long history that dates back to the earliest days of major league baseball.  The division rivals have taken part in some of baseball’s most memorable moments, from the infamous Babe Ruth trade for a $100,000 and a bag of balls, to Aaron Boone’s extra inning home run in 2003, the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry is as much a part of baseball as the seventh inning stretch and Cracker Jack. Despite the large disparity in overall World Series championships, the recent series victory by the Boston Red Sox created a new type of fan following known as the “Red Sox Nation“.   In the wake of the unofficial proclamation of a Red Sox Nation, the Yankees adopted their own fan following known as the Yankees Universe.  Spock looked into both followings to see if New York and Boston are actually more popular than any other team, and who has a larger fan base.

In terms of news and overall web presence, both the Yankees and Red Sox have a significantly higher web presence than any other team.  A search for New York Yankees returned 17 million results and over 53,000 news stories over the past month, while the Boston Red Sox returned 15.5 million results and over 41,000 news stories.  With the lone exception of the Chicago Cubs, all other teams including large market areas such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, returned at the most, half as many web results and news stories for their teams.  Television appearances favor the Red Sox and Yankees as well, where both teams have averaged anywhere from 3 to 5 times more appearances on networks such as ESPN and FOX over the past several years.  Within the blogisphere, once again the Yankees and Red Sox were dominant, with over 93,000 Red Sox and 80,000 Yankee blog posts over the past month.  The next closest teams were the Dodgers with 57,000 and Cubs with 53,000.

In terms of overall stadium attendance, Boston has led the league in percentage attendance over the past five years, while New York with a substantially larger stadium, has led the league in total attendance during that same span.  Merchandise sales also favor the Yankees and Red Sox, where according to SportsScanINFO, both teams accounted for 53% of merchandise sales for the 2005/2006 season.  Thus, while fans from other teams may complain about their team not receiving enough attention, the fact that the Yankees and Red Sox seem to dominate most fan and media related figures should shed some light

In addition to looking at the Yankees and Red Sox in comparison to the rest of the league, Spock also looked further into who has a more substantial fan following.  Among searches for the term Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees over the past year, Google Trends showed a slight advantage for the Red Sox, generating a 1.04 with the Yankees generating 1.00.  However, within those searches the Yankees showed a significantly stronger international search volume.  On Spock, the Red Sox also had a larger tag association with 8% more people having Red Sox related tags.   Among the social networking sites, the Yankees had a larger Facebook fan following with 41,340 members in their largest group, compared to the Red Sox with 34,785 members.  However on Myspace the Red Sox Nation had 70,893 members compared to 43,939 members for Yankees fans.  In terms of merchandise sales, the Yankees have traditionally sold a significantly higher percentage of  licensed gear, however after the 2004 season the Red Sox experienced a larger percentage gain, going from 12% of all licensed sales to 21%.

Given their recent string of success, their slightly higher Internet search volume, a similar if not slightly greater number of blogs and fan groups, and a higher percentage growth for merchandise sales, the Red Sox Nation is arguably the larger fan base (for now).  However, if I were a die hard Boston fan, I would not expect this to last for very long for a number of reasons.  Boston’s recent string of success and first championship in 86 years made them media darlings at the time and created a large buzz around the team, while the Yankees have experienced a number of playoff failures since 2003.  This would likely explain the growth in merchandise and United State search querys.  With the Chicago Cubs experiencing a championship drought of 100 years and set to make a possible world series run, it’s likely that a number of bandwagon Red Sox fans will switch allegiance to the Cubs.  This could in effect make a huge difference for merchandise sales, attendance, and internet search activity.

While the season is far from over, for now the Red Sox are in first place with the fans.

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