Are you watching the Super Bowl tonight between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants? I’ll be watching at least some of it, but my main interest in the NFL was in the in 90′s, watching Troy Aikman and the Dallas Cowboys in whatever coverage was available in the UK.
By contrast, I was on the edge of my seat during the Ireland – Wales match in the Six Nations Rugby today. And [spoiler alert] being a passionate Ireland supporter (The two manifestations of my Irish ancestry are in rugby and whiskey), the end result was a bit of a kick in the teeth.
Chatting with a friend, I was struck by the difference between the ‘fan of a game’, as I am with the NFL, and he is with rugby, and the ‘true fan’ of a team. Watching a match as a fan of a sport can be quite relaxing, as you can enjoy an entertaining game without investing your own emotion. Watching as a fan of a team is a stressful rollercoaster of emotions which often ends in disappointment.
In fact, even when your team wins, it can be so stressful than you have little memory of the event, which was certainly true when I watched Chelsea win the 1997 FA Cup Final against Middlesborough, which was the first major victory for the team in 27 years, and the first in my lifetime. As I walked home from the pub after watching the game and people asked about it, I could remember the score, but not even who had scored. And that’s including a goal after just 42 seconds which remained a record for 12 years!
What brands need to know about their true fans
Here’s the important point for brands, and it isn’t about pricing season tickets, or how to sell hats and scarves. It’s the fact that the majority of fans will continue to follow their team with passion and enthusiasm despite the fact that they won’t win. Statistically, 99% of the teams in any competition will end up losing at some point, and will have lost the previous year, and the year before that, and potentially for many years before.
Brands always want to portray their best side, hiding flaws and imperfections in the belief that this breeds success, rather than some kind of marketing uncanny valley.
The belief has always been that brands need to portray themselves as perfectly better than their competitors to attract customers, and because any flaw leads to complaints.
But that’s not the case – it’s how you react to any problems. The main complaints about brands via the internet are not that they screwed up – it’s that they don’t respond, react, or solve their screw-ups.
If you’re brave enough to talk about your problems, failures and mistakes with honesty and how you’ve solved them, it works. Talk to all the community managers who meet with their communities and find that explaining the reason behind common issues results in those communities becoming staunch defenders of them.
There are fans in the world who have spent decades following teams in lower leagues and divisions with extremely little chance of success, and will make great sacrifices to support them day-in and day-out. Wouldn’t you like customers like that?