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Steelers first in local market brand strength

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Pittsburgh Steelers are more than just a good football team. They're also a powerful brand.

The franchise was named the strongest team brand in its local market compared with scores of other professional sports teams across the country in a new consumer survey, the 2007 Turnkey Team Brand Index.

The Steelers ranked first among 122 team brands in the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball in home-market strength.

A total of 12,000 sports fans in 47 markets nationwide participated in the online survey by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, a New Jersey-based market research and executive search and recruiting firm.

"The Steelers are the model brand for a team," Turnkey's president and chief executive, Len Perna, said in a statement. "Down through their history, ownership, players, coaches, stadium and style match the hard-nosed work ethic of their city."

The team's brand was "clearly defined" and "consistent for decades," while its ownership was widely perceived as genuine, Perna said. Fans described the team's brand as "strong," "tough" and "hard-working," he said.

The survey included indexes of team popularity, fan loyalty and assessments of owners. It also asked participants about their perceptions of teams and associated sponsors, among other things, said Haynes Hendrickson, a Turnkey senior vice president.

The firm developed 36 attributes, such as "family-oriented" and "blue collar," and asked fans how well the attributes represented teams, he said.

The survey was not intended to produce valuations of team brands, Hendrickson said. "The strength of a brand, it's tough to put a dollar value on it," he said.

Behind the Steelers in the top 10 were the NFL's New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers, NHL teams the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings, baseball clubs the Boston Red Sox, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the NBA's San Antonio Spurs.

The Colts, Spurs, and Red Sox are all the current champions, while every team but the Saints and Sabres has won a title in the past decade.

The New York Yankees ranked 29th and the Dallas Cowboys 28th, though those teams had the top two out-of-market followings in another part of the study.

David Carter, a sports business professor at the University of Southern California, said the Steelers remained wildly popular, with loyal fans and stable ownership.

The team, he said, reflects Pittsburgh's sports-crazed population, which may be less transient than those elsewhere.

"In other major cities, you have greater competition for the entertainment dollar," Carter said. "Pittsburgh and the Steelers have always gone together," he said.