Last September, I wrote a blog post about the importance of brand equity in college athletics during a very uncertain time due to COVID-19. That blog post turned out to be one of our most popular posts of the year, so I decided to turn this into an annual tracker to monitor and discuss shifts in this ever-changing landscape. It seems this tracker will be more important than ever as realignment and alliances among A5 athletic departments start to take shape.

For a quick refresher, the Brand Value Index is designed to measure the relative passion levels of college sports fans by looking at three variables:

  1. Revenue per Fan – Total revenue reported by the athletic department divided up between the estimated number of fans across the country. This variable is used to take into account the passion levels of fans, especially when it comes to spending money to support their teams.
  2. Fan Base – Estimated number of fans across the country. Overall popularity is the main driver of this variable, which alone is a great indicator of brand equity as the reach is a result of the power of the brand over a long period of time.
  3. Fan Percent of State Population – Estimated number of fans divided by the total population of the state where the athletic department is located. The ability of a property to become the most popular in its own state and beyond proves the saturation level of the brand in the community.

After running the numbers for the most recent athletic season, below is a table of the top 10 Brand Value Index Scores, as well as the net change in ranking from last year.

For context, a value of 100 marks the average level of Brand Value Index among Power 5 conferences.

As you can see, Nebraska still comes out on top as the fan base size continues to grow well beyond the border of the state of Nebraska. Additionally, Alabama remains at #2, slightly edging out LSU at #3 who swapped places with Oklahoma. Diving deeper into the data, the primary reason for LSU’s rise is a growth in their fan base relative to other popular schools, as Oklahoma’s fall can most likely be to attributed to a revenue shortfall. This may also explain the school’s intent to transition to the SEC. Big Ten schools Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa also stayed in their respective positions in the top 10, while Oregon and West Virginia swapped due mostly to fan base growth differences. The biggest mover among the top 10 is Texas’ rise to #10 due to very strong fan base growth despite a drop in relative revenue per fan. It’ll be interesting to see how Texas moves over the next few years through SEC membership.

Overall, it appears the top 5 have separated from the rest of the pack as their Brand Equity Value remains very stable, but the gap between Nebraska and Alabama for the top spot has tightened a bit.

Go nuts Lincoln…for now!

Curious where your school ended up in the ranking? Email for the full top 50 list. Please note that only public universities were considered for this index due to disclosed financial information.