Does Star Power Draw Fans?


The New York Yankees have a lot of fans. Many either live in New York, grew up in New York, or have parents or grandparents who lived in New York and passed down their fanship to later generations (I am in this latter group). However, other Yankees fans have no connection to New York, but were drawn to the team because of other factors. In particular, the Yankees have managed to draw many international fans over the years

Over on the LoHud Yankees Blog yesterday, Anthony Solano provided a unique and interesting perspective as one such international fan. He is a native Australian, and chose to follow the Yankees as a kid because of their “star power” – namely Alex Rodriguez, but I suspect also players like Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens.

"As a kid back in 2007, I was fascinated by the elite, and there was none bigger than Alex Rodriguez at the time. By far my favourite player, he one of the stars that first attracted me to the Yankees, and I almost followed him out the door during the infamous opt out saga, heartbroken that the game’s best hitter was leaving the Yankees almost without a fight. Before you condemn me for this, remember I was about 13 years old and attracted to the Yankees initially based on one factor — star power. This is what the Yankees stand for, and that should never wane."

Are stars like A-Rod crucial in drawing fans from across the globe? (Image: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports)

My initial reaction was to scoff at this reasoning. I thought, “That’s not what it means to be a true fan!”. But why? Why should an Australian who loves watching star players like Alex Rodriguez be denied his fanship? Why is this any worse of a reason that following a team because they play their games in the same state as you, or because your father raised you to cheer for them? If anything, Anthony’s reasons for being a Yankees fan are more rational than the typical fan’s reasons.

However, I do find myself disagreeing with Anthony’s assertion that “star power” is intrinsic to the Yankees brand, and that without it, their popularity will crumble. I believe that it is not star power, but winning, that makes a team popular. The Rangers, had they held on to A-Rod yet continued to struggle, never could have drawn fans like Anthony. Teams need to win in order to put their star players to good use.

So while stars like A-Rod and Jeter do draw many fans, in the end, the Yankees must focus on winning first and foremost. Unfortunately, that means that getting under the $189 million limit is crucial in order to rebuild the team and the brand. The stars of the Yankees will leave one way or another, but they will surely sign or develop new stars to replace them. It may take a few years for those stars to reveal themselves, but in the end, a successful Yankees team will make fans happy, regardless of the specific players on it.

Questions for discussion:

1) Is “star power” as important a factor as Anthony asserts in drawing and keeping international fans?

2) What are your reasons for being a Yankees fan (or a fan of any team)? Do you care more about the players on the team, or the team’s success?