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Not All Sports Fans Are Created Equal

Not All Sports Fans Are Created Equal Not All Sports Fans Are Created Equal
02/25/14
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by Sam Marshall
Whether storming the court following a game-winning three pointer, screaming through the glass during a final attempt in a shootout, or flooding Times Square after winning the Super Bowl, there is no doubt that sports fans always find a way to display their unbridled passion. But, despite the universality of unconditional love for their favorite teams and players, all sports fans are not created equal. In fact, major league sports’ fans can be characterized by different interests, opinions and values, all of which should be delineated by advertisers to effectively engage each audience. In other words, advertisers must familiarize themselves with the nuances of each distinct fan-base in order to communicate with them in a way that resonates with their core beliefs and behaviors.

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As the most popular US sport, fans of the National Football League embody a collection of qualities that mirror the demographics of the U.S. population as a whole. They are trustworthy, caring and down-to-earth people who keep up with daily news, consider themselves practical and realistic, and are savvy with their finances.

Then take NASCAR fans. In recent years, NASCAR’s rising popularity has made it extremely relevant in the sports world. But do not mistakenly attribute the brand’s enhanced reputation to increased exposure on the internet, as its fans are less likely than the average person to use social media or the web for tasks like communicating with friends and sharing video. NASCAR fans consider themselves more easy-going, rugged and rustic than the average American and are more likely to enjoy a drink (or several) which, combined with their laid-back attitude and love for the outdoors, creates marketing opportunities at their rollicking pre-race tailgates.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have NBA fans who whole-heartedly embrace technology. The Internet and social media use is very popular among this group of fans, which makes sense considering they skew young. NBA fans concede that they use the Internet to catch up on subjects of interest, connect with friends and formulate plans, making them more likely to tweet than tailgate. NBA fans are also the most style conscious of all sports fans, striving to keep up with the latest fashion trends. They consider themselves visionary innovators who like to stand out in a crowd. Taken together, careful attention to image development, personal connections, and individual style is critical when marketing to NBA fans.

By contrast, Major League Baseball fans resemble NASCAR fans in their use of technology – less likely to use social networking to stay connected to friends and family. Despite this, they recognize the utility of technology – they’re more likely to use the internet to keep updated on the news, and are willing to invest in high quality tech products. Additionally, they value tradition and like to do things by the book. Therefore, advertisers who walk the line between modern and classic will successfully connect with this audience.

All this being said, working at a brand strategy consultancy inspired me to probe for which fan-base laid claim to the most brand conscious group of individuals. I was surprised to discover it was National Hockey League fans. NHL fans prefer brand names far more than the general population and consider themselves gurus on the latest hot new brands within their social circles. These fans are very conscious of appearance, and consider looks an important part of leaving a good impression. Similar to NBA fans, they are also much more likely to use the Internet to access social networking websites and are more inclined to brag about a recent high-end purchase on Facebook.

At the end of the day, companies that understand the demography and preferences of those who buy and use their products will win over their consumer audience. By comprehending who their fans are, each league can influence conversation around their sport, engage their fans in relevant ways and create active brand advocates who will sit in thirty degree weather with cheese on their heads, paint on their faces and icicles in their beards to support their home team.

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