Before you read this, stop what you're doing and add Jason Lisk's articles on The Big Lead to your feeds, and add him as a Twitter contact you follow.
Jason is, in my opinion, the best football writer on the Internets.
I say this as someone who does not know Jason (never met him) nor have I had email correspondence with him. We do follow each other on Twitter, and I have used the website he once wrote for (pro-football-reference.com) more than a few times when I've needed stats info.
Jason was a much needed addition to TBL's writing staff. I think Jason McIntyre deserves a ton of credit for starting TBL, but Jason doesn't know jack squat about the NFL. He's a Jets fan. What do you expect? So, when he hired Jason, I got excited because Jason's writings on pro-football-reference.com's blog were excellent. Now, he's got a bigger stage to muse about the NFL.
Recently, Jason went back to took a long look at the Harris Polls that track fan interest in local football teams. The polls go all the way back to 1992, when Jeff George's mullet was the shining symbol of the Indianapolis Colts franchise. What Lisk found after analyzing the poll data was the only thing more fickle and fair weather than a Patriots fan was a Colts fan.
Here's Lisk from TBL:
If team fanbases were largely loyal and established fans from the geographic area, then we would see generally consistent polling data, with variations only due to polling sample size error (+/- 3% for the NFL team popularity polls). That’s not what we see, though.
Lisk went through and discovered that Super Bowl winners received about a 4% bump in fan identification, meaning that the the Colts in 2006 likely got a 4% increase in people saying 'Yeah, I'm a Colts fan!' simply because they kicked the snot out of the Bears in a rain storm.Also interesting is that teams that win multiple championships in a short period of time, like the Pats and Steelers, don't see a significant increase in fan identification.
What we do see relating to the Patriots and their fans is this:
New England was never above 3% before the Belichick era. They were still below 3% in September 2003, after winning a surprise Super Bowl but then missing the the playoffs the next year. The peak season was actually the poll in September 2008, following the 16-0 year, and not during the Super Bowl winning teams. That means, of course, that there were more self-identified Pats fans during the one season that Matt Cassel was quarterback than any with Tom Brady starting;
OK, but what about Colts fans. Surely, the entire Colts fanbase didn't just spring up after Peyton Manning came to town, right?
Then there’s Indianapolis. Somewhere around 8% of respondents since 2006 identify the Colts as their favorite team, whereas that number was less than 2% before 2006, and less than 1% before Peyton Manning became a Colt.
Basically, prior to 2006, the lots of self-identifying Colts fans today simply didn't care about the team. After winning a championship, that fan identification percentage shot up 4 times. And based on these numbers, there simply weren't any Colts fans (save me and a few other old timers) who claimed to be Colts fans prior to Peyton Manning getting drafted in 1998. For most of the current fanbase, this team simply did not exist prior to 1998.
What this essentially tells us is that there are more Peyton Manning fans than Colts fans, and when Peyton hangs them up, that 8% could drop back to to 'less than 1%,' like it was during the Jim Harbaugh years.