April 21, 2015
By m+p intern Nick Friedman
The objective of every sports franchise is to win. Yes, winning brings eternal glory, but more importantly winning brings fans. And more fans means more money. So what should a sports team do when they’re not winning? When winning seems a long way off?
They need to communicate. And they need to follow these simple rules:
1) Inspire future winning
Fans are a very emotional group. Play on those emotions. When their team is not winning, they’re distraught…but you can channel that emotion into hopefulness. If you express how team decisions will make the team better and more likely to win in the future, you’ll get them there. Your fans will hold on in the present for the promise of future glory.
2) Make the fans a part of it
Fans love to align a team’s wins with themselves. It is common for a fan to say, “We won last night”. Align the future success with their own as well, and they’ll reward you with loyalty for it. Communicate to the fans that they are a part of this rebuilding process.
3) Own up to where you are—confidently
The language needs to show that the team is confident in the rebuilding process. But fans won’t buy it if you don’t explicitly acknowledge where you are today, and the work you have to do. Talking about a “rebuilding process” on the path to future success keeps them from losing faith.
Case in point: the Philadelphia 76ers. In 2013, the new GM, Sam Hinkie, decided the team needed a long-term rebuilding process. He traded the team’s best players for draft picks, draining the team’s talents and any chance to win in the near future. So what did the 76ers brass do to insure fans wouldn’t abandon the team? They came up with a new marketing campaign: “Together We Build.” The slogan made fans feel a part of the Sixers plan for future success. By sticking with the team for a few bad years, fans will be rewarded.
How did they follow up? The 76ers announced the team’s new slogan for next year’s season is “This Starts Now”. Their use of language kept fans loyal to the team during the rebuilding phase and created excitement for the upcoming seasons of winning.
Sports franchises will continue to tank. During this time they will need to do more than build a successful future—they will need to market that future success strategically.