Which Nation Is Bigger — Red Sox or Yankees?

The rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees is certainly one of the oldest and most heated in all of sports. Not only do the two teams fiercely compete on the field, but they also frequently engage in a war of words off the field. The latest illustration that there is no love lost between these two teams were the comments made by Hank Steinbrenner, Senior Vice President of the Yankees and son of the team’s principal owner George Steinbrenner, in a recent interview with the New York Times Play Magazine.

When asked about the Red Sox, Steinbrenner stated: "Red Sox nation? What a bunch of (expletive) that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans. Go anywhere in America and you won’t see Red Sox hats and jackets, you’ll see Yankees hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We’re going to put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order." John Henry, the principal owner of the Red Sox, responded by sending Steinbrenner an official membership card for Red Sox Nation.

After reading Steinbrenner’s comments I wondered whether he was right that Yankee nation was larger than Red Sox nation. It didn’t seem efficient to go around the country counting the number of Yankee and Red Sox hats and jackets, so I decided to analyze online consumer behavior to uncover which "nation" is truly dominant. The chart below illustrates the number of monthly unique visitors to each team’s website from March 2007 through February 2008.

A couple of things jump out from this chart.

  • First, the unique visitors to each team’s home page are remarkably similar with an average monthly difference in traffic of only 89,000 people.
  • Second, the Yankees generated more unique visitors than the Red Sox in nine of the last twelve months (as a Red Sox fan this pains me to admit).
  • Third, the post-season results of each team had a direct impact on site traffic. The Red Sox site steadily garnered increased monthly traffic from August to October, as the team went deep into the playoffs culminating with a World Series championship. The Yankees site, in contrast, experienced a downward trend in visitors during the same period, as the NY squad lost in the first round of post season play (much to the despair of all of us up here in Boston).

So what does this all mean to our original question of which "nation" is bigger? It looks to me that the "nations" are approximately the same size, with potentially a slight edge to the Yankees in a world where both teams are performing equally on the field. However, given that the Red Sox have won two World Series rings in the past four years and the Yankees have not won a championship since 2000, we are in the golden age of Red Sox baseball. Thus, at least during the post-season, Red Sox nation is BIGGER than Yankee nation. For better or worse, those pink hats will not go away until the Sox stop winning championships.

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