“Teamwork makes the dream work.” Cheesy, I know. Cliché, of course. True? Absolutely. But let’s backtrack for a moment.
If you are in a business of any kind and have not yet read up on Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion, I urge you to do so. Without going into too much detail, they consist of reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking, and consensus. As you can imagine, being familiar with persuasion factors is particularly useful for marketing professionals, including sports marketing. As it happens, in more recent years Cialdini added a seventh principle which, while there is a chance that it was added to sell more books, is useful for us to think about nonetheless. That principle is unity.
Unity refers to the sharing of identity with our target audience, thereby creating a connection with them. It’s easy to see how this can be useful in sports marketing. Hockey in particular (at least in my opinion) could benefit from creating a sense of shared identity with each team’s fans. As things stand, many hockey fans feel as though their opinion is meaningless to executives, and this creates a sense of alienation.
For each individual team, creating unity with fans needs to be added to the list of priorities. This means keeping season ticket holders in the loop as far as why decisions are made, getting fans’ input as far as in-game entertainment and implementing it, and overall just making them feel like part of the team. For the league itself it means doing at least the bare minimum to make fans feel like their opinion counts; for heaven’s sake, make all the All-Star Game roster spots fan-voted (yes, this is one of those hills that I will die on).
If this sense of unity can be achieved, teams will have more ground to stand on when it is important to persuade fans to stand by the team through the rough spots that none of them is impervious to. Here we come around full circle to the teamwork cliché we started with. If your fans feel like they are made part of the team, they will work with the team to uphold it through thick and thin.