Many may associate the biggest factor being wins and acquisition of the top players in the area. However, in the growing sport of ultimate, the goal is not necessarily being the best team.
Developing a franchise that builds fans, and especially appeals to non-ultimate fans, is without a doubt the biggest component of a successful emerging sports organization.
The huge difference in the two pro leagues is how they chose to build their fan bases in each team's surrounding community. The separate ideologies created by both leagues will continue to be debated for the foreseeable future until one comes out on top.
In terms of Major League Ultimate, one of the easiest ways to cross-analyze each team and their respective reach is to look at their social media platforms. Each team posses an official Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (except the Nighthawks). To compare each team I gathered the numbers of Likes and Followers of each page.
Of course this is not the only factor into what team has the strongest community outreach, but in this generation, social media is one of the biggest parts of our lives.
Battling for Facebook Likes
It is hard to point exactly what makes the top teams more appealing, besides the Spinners having an extra season when they were in the AUDL.
If you excluded the Spinners, the Rainmakers are easily in second, with D.C. and Boston strongly ahead of the rest of the pack. One would assume the top teams would have more likes, but the Portland Stags, who have been one of the dominant teams in the regular season, significantly trail the four teams ahead of them.
In Philadelphia, where the MLU headquarters are located, the team has the benefit of the league's media outreach and being one of the oldest franchises in pro ultimate history. For non-ultimate fans, Facebook would be the easiest platform to connect because people are more likely to 'like' a page than 'follow' them on another account.
Find the Right #Hashtag on Twitter
Being the league's first champions and then the only two-time champions is a cause for the increase in followers. The team also has the benefit of not having another pro ultimate team in the area.
The D.C. Current remains in the top half of the league, also benefiting from their championship back in 2014. But most surprising would have to be the New York Rumble's rise to third. Of course this is a benefit of having Marques Brownlee on the team for the past two seasons and his huge presence. Having Brownlee is significant for Major League Ultimate can could help bridge the gap for non-ultimate fans.
Also of note, the top four teams are all of the Eastern Conference teams with none of the West Coast teams trailing with under 2,000 followers. A reason for this would be that East Coast teams tend to 'live-tweet' their games more-so than the West. So a simple solution for Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco, and Portland: tweet during the games more!
Filtering Through Instagram
Once again another strong showing for the Rumble, again most of this should be attributed to Marques Brownlee. Also this is where the San Francisco Dogfish have their best showing by placing fourth on the medium. They have the most posts on their profile of all eight teams (including more than the MLU Instagram).
Of the bottom three teams (the Spinners, Rainmakers, and Current) combine for only 16 posts. Clearly being the reason for them being in the basement of the statistics.
The team accounts for exactly 25% of all likes and followers from all three mediums. However, over 15,000 of their overall analytics are attributed to Facebook.
The Seattle Rainmakers, who have a strong showing on Facebook, placed second and are the only other team to break 10,000. The two-time champs, Boston Whitecaps, placed third in the analytics. The 2014 MLU champions came in fourth.
Overall the Vancouver Nighthawks appear to be the team struggling the most on all three social media sites. They were sixth in both likes and Twitter followers, combine that with not having an Instagram account it starts to hurt the outreach.
While the Dogfish are the bottom team overall, their presence on Instagram stands out and gives them a slight edge over Vancouver.
Now with the large expansion and recent success of the opposing league in the past couple seasons, some might expect the playing field to level out. However number-wise the MLU remains on top.
On a league level, the MLU holds approximately a 6% lead across the board.
On a team level the MLU still holds a strong edge over the AUDL. Very few AUDL teams have stronger social media numbers than MLU teams, more than half of the teams falling short of the MLU's lowest account in each category.
However, since the AUDL has a larger number of teams than the MLU, there are teams that have surpassed the MLU's top squads. These three teams though would be considered outliers compared to the league averages.
San Jose: 1,907
If you want to compare teams that have a rival AUDL team in their respective city, once again the MLU holds strong. Every MLU team has more Facebook likes than their cross-city competitors. The same holds true for all teams on Twitter, but on Instagram the AUDL has stronger results in San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Seattle.