Study: Teams with Native American mascots end up losing millions
APR 16, 2014 5:03p ET
If negative public opinion about Native American mascots can't dissuade pro sports teams from using them, then maybe a study about the money they're losing because of those mascots will change their minds.
Just how much? It's apparently in the millions of dollars, according to research from Emory University.
It's a lot to go through, but the website Quartz summarizes it this way:
"Examining the financial performance over the past dozen years for four teams -- the Kansas City Chiefs and the Washington Redskins in the NFL, and the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians in Major League Baseball -- revealed the eye-opening result that having a Native American mascot appears to cost professional sports teams millions of dollars in annual revenue -- at least $1.6 million per year in the NFL, and $2.6 million per year for MLB's Braves and Indians.
The methodology behind the study included evaluating colleges that have switched from using Native American mascots -- a much more common occurrence at the amateur level than in pro sports. The researchers concluded that schools that moved away from such mascots generally experienced a small, short-term dip in revenue, but that over time the revenue actually increased.
The study also evaluated and compared revenue growth among professional teams with Native American mascots and those without such mascots. The study authors acknowledge that their research isn't perfect, mostly because there's a much smaller sample size to work with in professional sports. However, they say they are able to derive some implications from the trends they evaluated:
"Despite the limitations inherent to our analyses, the consistency between the NFL and MLB findings is in accordance with a trend of growing opposition to these mascots. ... Our results imply that fans are also becoming less enthusiastic about these mascots.
"To be blunt, the implication is that the trends suggest that keeping a Native American mascot is reducing financial performance and harming team brand equity."
It's true that any team would incur potentially large costs by switching mascots, at least initially. For starters, think of all the signage and merchandise that has to be changed.
"But that's a drop in the bucket," Dr. Manish Tripathi, one of the professors behind the study, tells Quartz. "And it's a one-time cost. Meanwhile, if you think about the impact they're taking from Native mascotry -- the damage to brand equity, the subsequent reduction in pricing power -- well, in that context, a one-time hit like that is just not a big deal. And there's a flip side to that as well: You might actually see an increase in sales."
H/t to Hardball Talk for the story.