Sunday, January 17, 2010

How much is your fandom worth?

Yesterday's WSJ contains a front page article summarizing economic research that attempts to put a price upon an emotion, in this case how much is it worth to be a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. Some fans put their money where there feelings by buying tickets and merchandise. But many fans simply follow a team, so how much is it worth to them?

The research reported here revolves around a survey done at the time the owner was threatening to move the Vikings to another city (would they still call them Vikings in San Antonio?). Citizens were asked how much they would be willing to pay to subsidize a new stadium to keep the Vikes in M-town and the average answer came to $530 per household. In a cost-benefit analysis, this information would be used along with tangible economic benefits (such as extra sales of tickets, hotel rooms and viking helmets) to determine if the city should subsidize a new stadium.

This same type of research is used to determine the value of such items as maintaining a pristine wilderness that most people will never visit but value nonetheless. The obvious criticism: it is one thing to say you would voluntarily spend $500 in a survey and quite another to actually part with the $500. The researchers might get a better answer if they posed the question this way: mayoral candidate X proposes raising your taxes $500 to pay for a new stadium -- does this make you more or less likely to vote for this candidate?

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