By Tim Graham
In his office last weekend, Buffalo Bills CEO Russ Brandon spoke about the fan base's importance to the franchise's vitality.
"We've always been a roll-your-sleeve-up operation," Brandon said. "In some markets, there's waiting lists for season tickets, and they don't worry as much. We have to sell tickets here and work at it.
"We're a volume-based business. It signifies that our work is never done, and we won't be satisfied until every ticket in this building is sold because it drives every lever of our business."
The interview was for a fan-oriented story that ran as part of The Buffalo News' NFL preview edition, which came out today.
Also released today was Forbes magazine's annual NFL valuation package. One of this year's sidebars examined how valuable each market's fans are to its team.
As Forbes staff writer Chris Smith explained, the magazine "sought to determine the NFL's most valuable fans on a per capita basis, dividing each team's local revenue by the local metro population. ... Local revenue is considered any team income not attributable to national or league-wide revenues, and it includes components like tickets, concessions, advertising, sponsorships and local media deals."
Bills fans finished third, but before they get overly excited about their ranking -- or, inevitably, irate that they weren't chosen first -- the list isn't about rah-rah loyalty and face paint. It's a formula that distills each fan into a dollar figure.
The notoriously unmoved Jacksonville Jaguars fans and their section-covering tarps, for instance, ranked seventh.
Forbes listed only the top 11 clubs and the average fan worth for each:
1. Green Bay
2. New Orleans Saints, $86
3. Buffalo Bills, $77
4. Tennessee Titans, $67
5t. Carolina Panthers, $63
5t. Indianapolis Colts, $63
7. Jacksonville Jaguars, $59
8. Dallas Cowboys, $53
9t. Cleveland Browns, $49
9t. Kansas City Chiefs, $49
9t. New England Patriots, $49
The league average was $50. The reason Green Bay was so far ahead of the league because it's located in the smallest market. Forbes reported Green Bay is 7 percent the size of the league's average metropolitan area.
The Bills have the NFL's cheapest average ticket, one of the smallest markets, have one less game in their season-ticket package (because of Toronto) and now sell 20 percent of their seats to Southern Ontario fans.
The Bills have sold more than 43,000 season tickets, up 16 percent over last season but far behind their total of 56,011 from four years ago.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Brandon said. "As we grow that season-ticket base, it helps all areas of your business."