Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity


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Inventing Team Tradition: A Conceptual Model for the Strategic Development of Fan Nations

By: K. Ready

Foster & Hyatt (2008) focus on the fandom, examining what drives a fan to like a team, and how important fans are for sports teams.

An integral question posed in the article is: “How can a professional sport manager build a fan base of loyal, non-local fans?”. Three ways to analyze this question are:

1) How does one build a “Fan Nation”

2) How Tradition is embedded into a Fan Nation

3) One must understand their fans, and the psychology behind

Within the article, Foster and Hyatt attempt break down exactly what a constitutes a: Fan Nation. They explore the idea of fandom as a sense of belonging. Is someone a fan because they lack inclusion in their lifestyle therefore? Do they become a fan for the  purpose of feeling a sense of belonging to a certain group or crowd? Or does being a fan provide a chance to break free from the problems currently going on in the world? Further, sociologist R. Neelly Bellah stated in the article that he thought fan nations hinder society because they divide society into smaller more segmented groups or “cliques”.

Foster and Hyatt go on to explain that in order to build a Fan Nation, sport managers must understand what a fan base consists of. They argue that there are 5 potential members of a Fan Nation:

1) The Unaware Potential Fan – Completely unaware the team even exists

2) Somewhat Aware Potential Fan – Are aware of the team, but do not care for the team

3) Memorabilia Fan – This fan buys the memorabilia but does not care whether the team succeeds or fails

4) Attracted Fan – These fans follow the team, but do not have enough feelings to consider themselves a strong fan

5) Allegiant Fan – These are the fans that follow a team’s every move, and will defend the team no matter what is going on. These are also known as “Die-Hard Fans”

]Foster and Hyatt further propose that tradition must be embedded within a team for a fan nation to exist. They use the example of the Edmonton Oilers, where their third jersey is not only a representation of the current team, but also the history of the team. They identify this as a key point toward attracting fans from outside the city of the team (in this case, outside of Edmonton).

Further questions raised:

1) If you were to be appointed a GM of a professional sports team, how would you plan to grow your fan base?

2) Fan bases in popular culture can depend on so many things, such as culture, team location, players, jersey colors, etc. What do you think is the most important factor in building a fanbase?


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Did The NHL Finally Get Marketing Right?

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When you think of New Year’s Day, you probably think, “Where’s the Advil?” to nurse your headache from the night before and hope no embarrassing photos of you make it to your Facebook timeline. However, since 2008, another sporting event “owns New Year Day” – The NHL Winter Classic. (Formentin, 2013)

Since the first Winter Classic was played on January 1st, 2008, the game has become a mega event along with the likes of the NFL Superbowl, “making the NHL less and less a poor cousin to the NFL, MLB, and the NBA.” (Ebner, 2013) In Melanie Formentin’s 2013 article, “The Great Outdoor Game: NHL Finally Gets Marketing Right”, she describes how the NHL turned the Winter Classic into a profitable and popular event with fans and sponsors alike, through tradition and nostalgia-based marketing.

From HBO sport documentaries leading up to the event; to maximizing co-branding efforts with sponsors; to even reviving the throwback sweaters; the advertising and marketing from the Winter Classic has shown success by tapping into “human values which play an important role in consumer behavior” with sports being “the greatest opportunities to tap into these emotions.” (Formentin, 2013)

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While Formentin’s article is very well organized and thoughtful, it could have been easily condensed, as it was often repetitive. With every new thought that was presented in the article, Formentin continually felt the need to point out that all advertising and marketing of the Winter Classic was based on tradition/nostalgia of playing the game of hockey outside which is the “root of the sport”, throughout the paper. (Formentin, 2013) This made it repetitive at time.

Another point of critique in Formentin’s article is that she doesn’t provide much numerical data to support the success of the NHL’s Winter Classic marketing strategy and, where she does show some data in the conclusion, it makes it seem like an afterthought. David Ebner’s, “Outdoor Games Key Cog in NHL Marketing Machine” 2013 article for The Globe and Mail, is a much better example of how to incorporate numerical info and statistics that reveal how much the event has grown. Two stats that really were surprising were that The Winter Classic pulled “in over 10 million in tickets, advertising, and merchandise” and the “half-dozen outdoor games is part of the reason next year’s salary cap is shooting up by around $6-million (U.S.) toward $71-million – and the games are a visible display of a league buoyed by a big-time new TV contract in Canada and strong exposure on NBC in the United States.” (Ebner, 2013) Adding additional numerical data throughout the book chapter, instead of just briefly mentioning it in a paragraph in the conclusion, would have heavily strengthened Formentin’s argument that the NHL finally did get marketing right. This leads to my final point.

Did the NHL finally get marketing right? What is the title based on? 2008 must not have been the first time the NHL thought about bringing the idea of the Winter Classic into fruition. There was not even any mention in the article of the Heritage Classic, the outdoor game that was played in 2003. Formentin’s article just showed good examples of what were current successes in the NHL marketing strategies. She never brought up any past failures, if there were any, and how they may have led to the growth and success of NHL’s current marketing strategy. Just from reading this article its unclear if the NHL did finally get marketing right? Maybe it was never ‘not right.’

While there are many critiques that can be presented on Formentin’s 2013 article, “The Great Outdoor Game: The NHL Finally Get Marketing Right”, the idea of tradition and nostalgia-based marketing making the event into a profitable and popular event with fans and sponsors alike,The is still something the NHL is using in the upcoming Chicago Blackhawks- Saint Louis Blues matchup this upcoming New Year’s Day. Gary Bettman has stated:

“With the Blues celebrating their 50th anniversary, the League celebrating its 100th and with Busch Stadium wrapping up its 10th year of service to the St. Louis community, there will be plenty of history to commemorate and lots of excitement to anticipate as the Blues and Blackhawks resume a rivalry that has provided so many fantastic memories.” (NHL Press Conference, 2016)

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References:

  1. Eber, D. (2013). Outdoor Games Key Cog in NHL Marking Machine. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/outdoor-games-key-cog-in-nhl-marketing-machine/article15862559/
  2. Formentin, M. (2013). The Great Outdoor Game: NHL Finally Gets Marketing Right. (3rd Edition). American History Through Sports: From Colonial Lacrosse to Extreme Sport. (Pp. 191-209) Santa Barbra, California; Praeger.
  3. NHL Press Conference. (2016) Blues-Blackhawks Rivalry Takes Centre Stage at the 2017 NHL Winter Classic at Busch Stadium. Retrieved from https://www.nhl.com/blackhawks/news/blues-blackhawks-rivalry-takes-center-stage-at-2017-nhl-winter-classic-at-busch-stadium/c-890790
  4. Thompson, D. (2014). Which Sports Have The Whitest/ Richest/ Oldest Fans. Retrieved from theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/02/which-sports-have-the-whitest-richest-oldest-fans/283626