This is seen throughout football, the sports industry and even across continents — with Allen and the Bills proving a fascinating example of this growing phenomenon.
For those without a map, southeastern Wyoming is thousands of miles from Buffalo. So why do people there even care?
Former CBS executive Steve Warner told me local television stations broadcast Bills games because they know their viewers are interested in watching Allen play.
Allen’s Bills are the most searched team over the last year in New York, not surprisingly, likely due to their consecutive AFC East division titles and the New York Jets’ and Giants’ recent struggles.
They’re also the second most searched team in Wyoming. To put that in perspective, there’s no other state outside the Northeast where the Bills are even in the top five most searched teams over the last year. The Bills also ranked in the top two in Wyoming from March to August 2021 before the NFL season began, so it’s not that people are searching for the Bills in Wyoming just because their games are being shown there.
An examination of Google data in 2017 — before Allen’s arrival in Buffalo — shows things were very different. While the Bills did rank No. 1 in New York searches, they didn’t rank inside the top 20 in Wyoming.
In other words, the data suggests that Allen is driving interest in the Bills among a group of people who previously hadn’t cared much about the Buffalo team.
Allen isn’t an outlier in the NFL regarding this phenomenon.
During the 2021-2022 season, the Chargers were the most searched team in the Eugene area. Five years ago, the Chargers didn’t even rank in the top 15 teams most searched in the Eugene area.
But it’s not just about fans of college football who are following individual players. NFL fans do it too.
New England still loves its Patriots, but it now has a second love in the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers were the second most searched team in every New England state in 2021, except for Connecticut.
Back in 2017, the Buccaneers weren’t even in the top 20 most searched teams in any New England state.
Clearly, the basketball superstar has fans in markets across the country — and the world.
In Ohio, where James is from, the Cleveland Cavaliers are always the most searched team on Google. But each time after James left — for the Miami Heat in 2010 and LA Lakers in 2018 — his new teams became the second-most searched teams.
But as fans increasingly join social media and traditional media becomes less important, we shouldn’t be surprised to see players become more important than teams.
Granted, that’ll never be the case for a fan like me. I love my Bills.