By Barry Janoff
June 16, 2016: The NFL, ESPN, Cabela's Sporting Goods, In-N-Out Burger, Pizza Hut and Dunkin' Donuts are patting themselves on the back after having topped their respective categories in the 2016 EquiTrend Study from The Harris Poll, which has released its entire list of leading brands as named by consumers.
According to The Harris Poll, the 28th annual EquiTrend Study reveals the strongest brands in nearly 100 categories based on a sample of more than 97,000 U.S. consumers (ages 15 and over) surveyed online (in English) between Dec. 22, 2015 - Feb. 1, 2016.
Categories include airlines, appliances, automotive, computers, consumer electronics, cruise lines, entertainment/recreation, financial services/insurance, hotels, household products, media, non-profits, online, restaurants, retail, sports and telecom.
The total number of brands rated was 3,837.
Category leaders were shared by Harris earlier this year.
The EquiTrend Brand Equity Index is comprised of three factors — Familiarity, Quality and Purchase Consideration — that result in a brand equity rating for each brand.
"The stronger the brand, the greater the bond," according to The Harris Poll.
According to The Harris Poll, the EquiTrend Study benchmarks how deep those bonds go and honors the highest ranked brands in each award category.
In sports, the NFL was named sports league brand of the year, followed by NCAA college football, MLB and the NBA.
The NFL also topped the category list in 2015, followed by MLB, NCAA college football, Premier Soccer League and NCAA basketball.
Other sports league brands in the 2016 report that ranked below category average (alphabetically): Formula 1 Racing, MLS, Nascar, NCAA college basketball), NHL, PGA Tour, UFC and WWE.
For the NFL, facing serious on-going situations regarding player health, concussions and other issues, being named the top sports league coincides with more good news from financial tracking firm Fitch, which gave the NFL "A+" and "A" ratings for several financial platforms.
According to Fitch, these high ratings "reflect the NFL's position as the most popular professional sports league in the U.S., the NFL's strong and highly regarded economic model, which includes sizable multi-year television contracts, significant revenue sharing among member clubs, a proven track record of conservative financial policies, and its current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with its players union which includes a 'hard' salary cap.
"The NFL product continues to be among the most highly coveted sports programming and content," Fitch wrote in its just-released report.
In the category of sports TV, ESPN was named brand of the year, followed by NBC Sports, Fox Sports, NFL TV, CBS Sports, FS1, Yes and NFL Red Zone.
Other sports TV networks in the 2016 report that ranked below category average (alphabetically): Fuel TV, MLB TV, NBA TV, NHL TV, Tennis Channel and The Golf Channel.
The top retailer among sporting goods stores was Cabela's, followed by Dick's, Finish Line, REI, the now bankrupt Sports Authority and Bass Pro Shops.
Other sporting goods store brands in the study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Champs Sports, Dunham's Sports, Eastern Mountain Sports, Foot Locker, Gander Mountain, Lady Foot Locker, MC Sports and Modell's Sporting Goods.
The burger restaurant brand of the year was In-N-Out Burger, followed by Five Guys, Culver's, Wendy's, Sonic, Whataburger and Steak 'n Shake.
Other burger restaurant brands in the EquiTrend study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Burger King, Carl's Jr., Checkers/Rally's, DQ Grill & Chill, Hardee's, Jack in the Box, McDonald's and White Castle
IHOP was the casual dining restaurant brand of the year, followed by Outback, LongHorn, Red Lobster, Bonefish Grill, Applebee's, Chili's and Buffalo Wild Wings.
Other casual dining restaurant brands in study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Bahama Breeze, Denny's, Ruby Tuesday, Shoney's and TGI Fridays.
The top pizza chains were Pizza Hut, Papa John's and Domino's.
Chick-fil-A, Zaxby's and Popeyes led the chicken restaurant category.
Other chicken restaurant brands in the study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Bojangles', Boston Market, Church's Chicken, El Pollo Loco, and KFC Restaurants (Kentucky Fried Chicken).
The coffee and QSR leader was Dunkin' Donuts, followed by Krispy Kreme, Starbucks and Einstein Bros. Bagels.
Other coffee and QSR brands in the study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Bruegger's Bagels, Caribou Coffee Shops, McCafe, Seattle's Best Coffee Shops and Tim Hortons
Top mobile network was Verizon, followed by AT&T.
Other mobile networks in the study ranked below category average (alphabetically): Cricket Wireless, Sprint Mobile Network, T-Mobile Mobile Network and Virgin Mobile Network.
Delta topped the full-service airline category, followed by Alaska/Horizon, American, Hawaiian and United.
Southwest was named the value airline of the year, followed by JetBlue.
Toyota was the full-line automotive brand of the year, Lexus the luxury brand of the year.
Sony topped the home electronics category, followed by Samsung and LG.
See the full list here.