Many casual sports fans may still think of the Green Bay Packers as a quaint, throwback organization with the biggest sport in the smallest market. However, what is not quaint about the Packers, what is great business and smart brand building, is the way they continue even in the best of times, to take care of the their fans and their supporters.
Latest case in point was last week when the team did their annual week-long cross state caravan, the Tailgate Tour, complete with players, team officials, and lots and lots of goodwill. In many sports the roadshow in the offseason comes and goes, along with the fan fests. In the strongest and the leanest years brands sometimes forgo the extras for the sake of budget.
However, some teams, the Red Sox in baseball and the Packers in football, keep building and growing their brand even when there is nary a ticket to sell and the play on the field is strong. Why? It is because these franchises view themselves the way most used to…as a public trust as much as a brand, and in the strongest of times still many fans in the outer reaches of their geographic area may not be able to afford or access the team in season, so you bring the team to them at a time when the brand may not be top of mind all the time.
Last week in the smallest of towns the Packers held events, each to say thank you to their supporters and reinforce that solid fan base from the grassroots up. Did it have to be backed by a huge sponsor, or have the glitz and glamour of a reality show or webcam following them along? No. It could have but it did not have to. The loyalty to brand and the show of support was the message the Packers wanted to communicate as intimately as possible. In a way it was social networking the old fashioned way…door to door community to community face to face. Sure it had some bells and whistles and digital updates by staff, but it was much more about taking old school principals on how to enforce your brand and applying it to a forward thinking plan of reinforcement.
Maybe some day the Packers will have opening for tickets at Lambeau, or they will have a crisis that could hurt fan loyalty and support. Maybe there is a worry about discretionary income and a fans ability to buy extra product or access pay TV or online content. Those dollars flow a bit freer when you have the emotional connection to a team or a brand, and the Packers trip last week helped reinforce that connection from now through training camp and up to the season kickoff and beyond.
In today’s volatile free agent market, it is hard to build loyalty to a player…but reinforcement of loyalty to a team and a brand is hugely important. Without selling one ticket last week the Packers captured that loyalty again with fans, and that loyalty you cannot put a price on.