Lin: Bigger Than Tebow?

This was post number five as part of the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective’s Linsanity Day. You can read the other posts here, here, here, or here.

By Andrew Mooney, Ben Zauzmer and Chris Bruce

It may have tapered off slightly after Monday’s lackluster effort against the Nets, but anyone who’s tuned in to ESPN in the last few days can confirm that Linsanity is still alive and well. Linsanity officially commenced following Lin’s 25-point performance against the Nets on February 4th and has since continued unabated, as frenzied crowds at Madison Square Garden continue to delight in the performance of their new point guard. Like a few other Harvard economics majors, Lin’s influence has provided his corporate employer with a tidy profit, but he hasn’t forgotten about the little guy; Lin’s play on the court has provided ticket scalpers with a bonanza of their own, as the hoopla that surrounds him has led to a surge in demand for Knicks’ tickets on the secondary market.

Using data compiled by ticket search engine SeatGeek, we’ve graphed the average price of tickets to four different Knicks games, from Friday’s loss to the New Orleans Hornets to this Wednesday’s matchup with the Atlanta Hawks, as they fluctuated over the preceding two weeks.

As the hype surrounding Lin compounded, single-game ticket prices soared by as much as 258 percent, in the case of Sunday’s matchup against the Dallas Mavericks, climbing from $140.57 on February 4 to $503.82 on February 17. The average rise for the four games was 208 percent, meaning the prices for these tickets effectively tripled since Lin assumed a starring role.

There exists a substantial correlation between Lin’s performances and jumps in ticket prices. Over the 15-day period we examined, six of the top eight single-day price increases came immediately following nights on which Lin played, and the other two came once ticket prices (and Linsanity) had already begun their precipitous rise.

The graph also shows that prices did not move significantly until Lin’s 38-point performance against the Lakers, which brought his international profile to its peak; the following day, February 11, Google searches for “jeremy lin” reached their zenith worldwide.

How does Lin’s influence compare with that of another significant acquisition for the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony? In the week before Anthony’s arrival in New York on February 21, 2011, Knicks’ tickets sold on the secondary market for, on average, $128.51. After news of the trade broke, ticket prices rose to an average of $206.02 in the ensuing week, a 60.3 percent increase. Despite the smaller increase in ticket prices, Carmelo’s impact upon them was instantaneous, whereas Lin’s effect on prices took some time to gain traction.

Ironically, after months of speculation and trade rumors, the addition of Anthony—a  perennial All-Star and All-NBA selection—caused the price to jump less than the emergence of an unheralded rookie. It’s possible that prices had already risen slightly, reflecting the expectation of a trade for Anthony, but the stark difference between the two suggests that the rise in demand is attributable to more than just basketball.

Consequently, perhaps the only phenomenon with which Linsanity can accurately be compared is Tebowmania, the similarly insufferable fad inspired by the one and only Tim Tebow.

And if ticket prices are any indication, Lin has actually created a greater spike in demand for his team than Tebow. Last fall, Broncos tickets moved from an average sale price of $143.20 before Tebow’s first start to an average of $172.92 thereafter, a 21 percent increase. Even when we compare the pre-Tebow prices with their regular season peak in December, we find only a 57 percent increase.

Has Linsanity officially displaced Tebowmania as the most intense craze in recent sports memory? Comparing ticket prices across sports is tricky, and larger football stadiums may make it harder to drive up prices. But given that both venues were essentially sold out prior to the teams’ respective personnel changes, the 200+ percent increase in ticket prices associated with the Knicks’ addition of Lin puts Anthony and Tebow to shame. So yes, someone may have produced cultural madness even greater than that inspired by Tebow. Time to move to Canada.

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  • Hello,

    Don’t think the Tebow-Lin stuff is really even comparable in this format…here is why:

    The MSG ticket market is nuts – there is also way more disposable income/really rich people in NYC than in Denver. The fluctuation in ticket prices you will see for the Knicks tickets in really close seats when they are winning vs. losing is huge – you will never see that type of market fluctuation or mark-up at a regular season football game, and certainly not in Denver vs. New York. Just don’t think it is a fair comparison even acknowledging the size of each stadium/arena.

    Might be a better idea to look at national media buzz between certain dates of Tebowmania vs. Linsanity – there are some tools out there to measure that. Ticket prices between NYC (MSG specifically)-Denver, Arena-Stadium, NFL-NBA are too different to compare, if both were virtually sold out.

  • I agree that in order for this to be a fair comparison if you use ticket prices, there needs to be some sort of control for stadium size. Denver’s stadium (Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium) holds 76,125 whereas MSG only holds 19,763. That means if demand is the same the Knicks’ tickets will increase more (as I’m sure you know). However, as a Chiefs fan, I do enjoy someone outdoing Tebow in some way..

  • Another obviously overlooked factor is the size of the sports market. Denver is a much smaller sports market than NYC — with not many other big cities within driving distance. So even if people wanted to flock to Tebow’s home games (where the winning streak began), unless they were already in the Denver metro area, they probably weren’t going to buy tickets.

    As Lugie suggested, perhaps the better indicator of “frenzy” is the relative amount of publicity. An even simpler suggestion would be to compare jersey sales. That said, I believe that Lin has caused a bigger frenzy than Tebow simply because basketball is a more international sport, and I have to believe that Lin became an household name in many countries around the globe — not just in the US.

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