Sports Lessons – How to Turn Customers into Fans

by Jeannie Walters

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For those of us who are sports fans (cough cough, Go Cubs!) it’s sometimes weird to hear about our beloved teams as “products.” This term is thrown around a lot by team owners who fight with cities over stadiums and parking lots.

In the last few months, I’ve had the privilege of getting an up-close view of the behind-the-scenes business of 3 very different sports teams. The one theme? Focus on what fans want.


And isn’t that what all of us should be doing?

Here are three examples to get your customer experience pumped for your fans!

1. Seattle Seahawks takes their fans seriously.

The 12th Man is quite a mantra in this city. The football team considers their fan as the “12th man” on the field. This means that everywhere you go, you see evidence of this in posters and bumper stickers and pictures in windows. The mere numerals of 12 signify the unity around this idea. The Seahawks know that recognizing their fans as a part of the team is vital for fan loyalty.

As a result, the Seahawks have an exceptional record at their home field. Legend has it the stadium gets so loud it causes mini earthquakes!

Rod Brooks, Chief Marketing Officer at Pemco Insurance in Seattle, shared how this type of loyalty was deep-seated in the community on his interview with us on Crack The Customer Code.

2. River Plate builds from the inside out.

Understanding the need to create loyalty and market the soccer club in Argentina who had a strong history but lacked merchandise, morale and more, they created a connection with their biggest fans.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

I had a chance to interview Derrick Hall, CEO of the Major League Baseball team the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was very honest about some of the ways fans make demands that are difficult, how they are fickle and sometimes impossible to please. BUT he also stressed the entire experience of going to the ballpark was what he had to consider.

The fan experience has to be about before the game, during the game, and after the game. He told a story about how one vocal fan complained mercilessly after the team changed their uniforms. Hall invited her to his office and went over why they switched, plus gave her some new uniform swag to wear. Winning over individual, but passionate, fans is a key part of delivering a successful experience.

how to turn customers into fans

Any time we consider our customers as our fans, we’re bound to act differently toward them. Do you know who your greatest fans are? How are you treating them?

Image credit: PhilipRobertson via Creative Commons license


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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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