Whether you follow sports or not, most people are aware that some teams have a way of connecting with fans that other teams do not. For instance, the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL, the Kansas (KU) Jayhawks men’s basketball team, and the Boston Red Socks baseball team are well known for having large fan bases. These fans come out to support them through thick and thin.
Signs Of A True Connection
The reason for the strong fan base transcends their win-loss record. For instance, the Cowboys have been very inconsistent over the years. They have had great years and lousy years. Yet, their fans stick with them. Since their current stadium was completed in 2009, they have averaged approximately 90,000 attendees per game despite having a winning record in only about half the years.
In contrast, the Washington Redskins of the NFL, who had mixed results and a bit more on the downside, dropped from an average attendance in 2010 of ~83,000 to ~61,000 in 2018. Clearly, their fans do not have the same kind of allegiance to the team that the Cowboys’ fans have.
The Winning Connection
So, what is the secret for these teams? Is it that they have had winning seasons? Well, it is true that all three teams have had many winning seasons, The Red Socks have won 9 world championships over ~120 years. The Cowboys have appeared in 8 championship games and won 5 over their 60 years of existence. Likewise, the KU men’s basketball has won their conference championship 61 times in just over 120 years with multiple NCAA championships. They also have the longest current NCAA tournament appearance streak having being selected for 30 years straight.
So, winning likely helps. However, there are other teams with a tradition of winning that don’t have the same following. Consider the recent Super Bowl featuring the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. Kansas City was the #1 TV viewing market for the game with 97% of televisions that were on tuned into the game. San Francisco was not among the top 10 markets for the game. San Francisco had won more Super Bowls than Kansas City, but neither team had won in recent years. Yet, Kansas City had a stronger fan base.
But, There Is More
For two teams to have such a disparity in viewership when playing in the big game indicates that Kansas City has a stronger following than San Francisco. Thus, a connection to fans must be based on more than a winning tradition.
Let’s consider other traditions and ways that teams connect with their fans. If you look at the Kansas Jayhawks, they have a huge number of basketball traditions and other characteristics that make them appealing. The person who originated the game of basketball coached at KU. They also have a unique mascot and chant. Both are memorable and rated among the best in college sports. They also teach new students the college traditions, which help maintain those traditions over time. In addition, they are known for their amazing atmosphere at Allen Field House, which holds the record for the loudest indoor sports arena at 130.4 decibels.
The Red Sox and the Cowboys also have their traditions. The Red Sox have the Fenway Frank, music traditions and more. Likewise, the Cowboys are known for their Cheerleaders and playing on Thanksgiving every year. Additionally, most teams with a strong following have a major rival and a really good marketing team that creates a very distinct brand. The Cowboys, for example, became known as “America’s Team” expanding their presence outside the Dallas area. Similarly, KU often refers to alumni with the phrase “Once a Jayhawk, always a Jayhawk,” continuing to reinforce the connection to the university.
These concepts of connecting apply elsewhere. Think of the places you eat, the politicians you want to elect, the products you buy (or dream of buying), etc. In each case, consider how they are building their connection to you. Does it feel authentic? How strong would you rate your loyalty? Are you a strong fan through thick and thin or are you a fair weather fan?
By considering these questions, you can learn a lot about both yourself and the things that attract you.