Thursday, June 15, 2006

Never underestimate the power of a passionate community

Going to Tuscaloosa, Alabama on a Football Saturday in the fall never ceases to impress me. Whenever the Alabama Crimson Tide plays a home game, this mild-mannered college town is tranformed into a city with a 1-day population of around a quarter million people. I've seen figures that estimate the economic impact to Tuscaloosa for an Alabama home football game at being anywhere from $12-25 million. Over 100,000 strangers from all across the state and country, converge onto a few blocks around Bryant-Denny Stadium, and become an empassioned community.

From a marketing perspective, it always amazes me the utter devotion that these fans have for their team. When you are there, in this stadium, you can look at the other 80,000+ people in attendance, and know that there is absolutely no other place in the world that most of these people would rather be than right here, right now. I know, because I feel the same way!

Ryan has a great post up now about the passion he observed for the Korean World-Cup team in 2002. It's the same passion that surrounds so many sports teams across the country and world. I've always been intrigued by music marketing because of the close relationship that musicians have with their community of fans, but it's really a similar dynamic at work for sports fans. The teams put themselves in a position where interaction with their community makes them more productive.

And in the end, a strong relationship is formed. Both sports fans, and the teams they cheer for, literally need each other to 'survive'. But how does this differ from Coke and their customers? Without the customers, Coke has no one to sell to, and the business collapses.

Or perhaps the big difference is that while Coca-Cola has customers, the University of Alabama has passionate fans. Passionate fans, that are, ironically, nonchalantly drinking Coke while they cheer for 3 hours for their favorite team.

There's a lesson for marketers there: While it's nice to have customers, fans rule.

Pic via Flickr user TooMuchPete


Anonymous said...

I think that's one of the things that kept Apple going through tough times. And now they're doing a pretty good job of expanding their fan base.

Anonymous said...

Our pal Michael Wagner just posted a comment over at the Daily Fix quoting a 19th century preacher as he told his progeny: "People will come to watch you burn."

Loved that quote; there's such power in passion.