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3 Reasons You Treat Your Customers Like Sports Fans

Camping out the night before.

Standing in line for hours to get in.

Getting defensive and arguing with family members and friends.

You might think we’re talking about diehard sports fans, but we’re actually talking about Apple users.

There are definite behavioral similarities between sports fans and brand fans.

For example, we’ve all seen images through the years of Apple fans camping out in front of stores in order to get their latest product.

For many retailers, the level of passion, commitment, and loyalty of sports fans is exactly how they want fans of their brand to act.

Because when they act like that, they become evangelists who spread the message and mission of your brand.

Brand Fans Create Communities

Sports fans identify and are drawn to that sense of community around their favorite teams.

That community feeling brings fans together, creates bonds, and establishes a common ground.

I’m a Tennessee Titans fan and, living in Connecticut, their games aren’t usually televised locally. So, I enjoy going out to watch the Titans with my kids around other Titan fans to get that sense of camaraderie.

The same thing happens with brands.

For example, Apple users often proudly display Apple stickers on their cars.

Harley-Davidson owners have been known to get a tattoo of the corporate logo and carry a huge sense of community.

Establishing a feeling of community is all about like-minded people sharing something–brand, team, or whatever as a common ground so they feel connected.

Like they’re part of a club.

Lululemon is a great example of a brand bringing together like-minded people who connect and form their own community.

For $128 annually, members of Lululemon’s premium loyalty program receive a pair of pants or shorts with a special logo on them. The idea behind this is when you see someone with that same logo at yoga class, it’s something to connect on and build relationships.


Brand Fans are Passionate

Passion in life is a quality attribute that excites and energizes individuals and people around them.

Just ask REI.

REI is a great example of a brand that has an energized and engaged online community.

Besides their relentless pursuit of outdoor adventures, members of the REI Co-op loyalty program are nothing, if not passionate.

Their passion for the outdoors was epitomized in November 2015 when REI officials announced plans to close their doors on Black Friday at all locations.

At the same time, this created an annual tradition for passionate REI customers because the company’s message was to not work on Black Friday and spend the day outdoors.

That passion was always evident in REI members and now it’s seen by others around the country every Black Friday. REI, which has been closed on Black Friday for the past five years, wanted to take a stand for its company and its mission.

REI is a cooperative, which means it’s not owned by shareholders, but by its members. REI wanted to drive the cooperative point home with its Black Friday announcement.

While REI doesn’t disclose financial numbers by being closed on Black Friday, customers still place orders that day that are processed the following day.

In cooperatives, profits are treated as a surplus and are then redistributed among members or reinvested in the business.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Ben Steele, REI’s chief creative officer, explained the company’s Black Friday decision.

“A lot of people know we are a co-op, but don’t know what that means,” he explained. “We really wanted, in this moment in time, to have something that emphasizes how this organization is different.”

And that message has resonated with REI members, who pay a one-time $20 fee to join the premium loyalty program.

Each year members receive a dividend each year that’s equal to 10 percent of the purchases they made on full-priced items. Last year, REI paid out $123 million in dividends.

The Black Friday annual ritual for REI embodies everything about the company, its mission, and its members.


Brand Fans Are Evangelists

Many non-sports fans often view sports fans as crazy because of their complete devotion to their favorite teams.

For sports fans, getting into passionate conversations bordering on the irrational comes with the territory.

For retailers that kind of passion, fueled by a sense of community, can create brand evangelists. These are your greatest brand advocates because they talk to everyone they know about your company.

In fact, we’ve found a great way to fuel this passion is by offering customers a Premium Loyalty program. Eighty-four percent of consumers are likely to recommend a retailer to friends or family when the retailer offers a program like this with benefits that are valuable.

This helps build your brand and strengthen your unique community of fans.

Just as fans want to stay on top of everything related to their favorite teams, so too do consumers who are advocates of any brand.

Even if your brand evangelists aren’t your biggest spenders, they are more valuable to you due to their passion and unwavering loyalty and ability to drive new customers to shop at your brand (or something like that).


Brands Should Live in Their Customers’ Shoes

The best way to turn customers into brand fans is to live in their shoes.

If you do this, you will better understand their expectations and desires.

Here are some stops you should make along your customer journey.

Give your customers more than they expect and then the value they already perceive will be heightened.

Consistently engage, survey, and reward customers for their actions taken on behalf of your brand.

If you target customers with custom content that is personalized, they will actively engage with it.

Just as sports teams harness fan data, retailers should follow suit to deliver highly customized and relevant communications, content, and offers.

Take customers on a journey of your brand, listen to them, understand them, focus on them and, in the end, you will gain brand fans.

What does your brand do to create brand fans?

Tyler Haskins

Tyler is our EVP, Marketing & Operations. He is a seasoned marketing professional with close to 20 years of experience in digital marketing and product development and has extensive knowledge of the loyalty and customer engagement space.

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