How Peyton Manning could increase your income

This article originally appeared in the print edition of the The Boulder Daily Camera on Saturday, March 24, 2012.

The Broncos’ quest for world championships now “starts with Peyton,” says executive VP John Elway.  If you don’t follow the Broncos, should you care?

Yes, say economist Michael C. Davis and psychologist Christian M. End, co-authors of the journal article “A Winning Proposition: The Economic Impact of Successful NFL Franchises.” They find a positive correlation between an NFL team’s winning percentage and local per-capita income.

Last season the Broncos won eight games, four more than the previous season. Professors Davis and End conclude that such an increase correlates a $120 local per-capita income gain, adjusting for inflation.  How do the authors explain this?

They examine the possibility that higher local incomes contribute to a team’s winning, or that team salaries push up the per-capita income, and conclude that neither is significant. Instead, they suggest that winning teams increase local workplace productivity. The authors then present psychology research supporting this effect.

One study found that a team’s victory or defeat affected how ardent fans perceived their “personal competencies on mental, social, and motor skill tasks.” The positive response to a team’s victory is what psychologists call “BIRGing”: basking in reflected glory. The authors note research showing that positive self-regard and mood contributes to job satisfaction and performance. Meanwhile, ardent fans also report lower self-esteem after their team lost.

Janet Lever’s 1969 study in São Paulo, Brazil illustrates the phenomenon: After a popular local soccer team lost, productivity decreased and workplace accidents increased.

Apathetic about the Broncos? Maybe you shouldn’t be.

Thanks to Michael C. Davis for his assistance with this article.
Photo courtesy of



Filed under published, sports

2 responses to “How Peyton Manning could increase your income

  1. hmm… so you’re telling me that these researchers ruled out every other possible reason why denver’s per capita income gain increased in that time period? and it all came back to the broncos? i’m finding that dubious.

    there’s also the fact that studies have shown the opposite relation when it comes to college sports:

    “‘Here is evidence that suggests that when your football team does well, grades suffer,’ said Dr. Waddell, who compared transcripts of over 29,700 students from 1999 to 2007 against Oregon’s win-loss record. For every three games won, grade-point average for men dropped 0.02, widening the G.P.A. gender gap by 9 percent. Women’s grades didn’t suffer. In a separate survey of 183 students, the success of the Ducks also seemed to cause slacking off: students reported studying less (24 percent of men, 9 percent of women), consuming more alcohol (28 percent, 20 percent) and partying more (47 percent, 28 percent).”

    • Hi Ben,

      No, the authors of the paper did not study the Broncos’ 2010 & 2011 seasons. It’s a more general study of many teams and seasons. See Table 2 of the paper linked above, & discussions of regression analysis, if you’re interested. I contacted a co-author about how to adjust for inflation. I think there’s a table showing city-by-city data, too, & Denver is included. For all I know the effect was non-existent in Denver, but I didn’t look too closely.

      Interesting point about college sports. That is a more direct measurement. Feel free to contact Christian End, the psychologist co-author. I bet he’s read the NY Times article, so I wonder what he said.

      From the article, this quote is great: “Big-time sports have become a modern tribal religion for college students.” That, and BIRGing are examples of what I don’t like about college sports. There’s probably some tax-funded stuff I wouldn’t like either, but I’d need to read up on that.

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