Confessions of a Patriots fan in a post-Broncos NFL Championship World
How do you know if someone is a Patriots fan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you – or you will undoubtedly find them with a Bud Light, yelling in the bar (“bah”) or sulking dishonorably when Brady is having an off day. The Patriots fandom extends far beyond the borders of New England, and I among them was crushed after Denver won the AFC Championship.
Flashback to Super Bowl XLIX: It was a phenomenal game of football*. The Patriots’ late comeback in the last eight minutes of the final quarter; hometown hero TB throws two touchdowns, leading the Pats to a 28-24 win against the Seahawks.
Super Bowl 50 (because forget Roman numerals): the Denver Broncos unceremoniously defamed us as Super Bowl Champions, proving that New England could win only if the odds were in our favor. And the Broncos deserve every ounce of credit and celebration for their victory. The new Orange Crush should revel in their third world championship, the remarkable MVP Von Miller, and Peyton Manning’s forthcoming retirement. Hell, those Broncos fans are almost, almost as rowdy and dedicated as we are.
I have a Colorado driver’s license, and I don’t respect Ugg model Tom Brady. So why do I go out of my way to high-five a fellow Patriots fan, or holler at strangers wearing an Edelman jersey?
I grew up in a small suburb outside of Boston. For as long as I can remember, I was a Pats fan because my dad’s name is Pat. The Patriots lost to the Green Bay Packers 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI, but I don’t remember that. I do remember marching proudly around the halls of my elementary school (hold your judgment) before the game, singing for the Patriots and learning about these strange “Cheesehead” characters. After the 2015 win, I had the pleasure of watching the Patriots and their four Lombardi trophies parade down Boylston Street from the 11th floor of my office building. I am desperately proud of being a New Englander – I am a bonafide Patriots fan.
As a PR professional, I am interested in the psychology behind die-hard fans that honor football on Sundays as if it’s a religion. After all, the NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry. What makes any consumer truly love an organization, product or idea the way football fans exude passion for their teams? Or, in the case of Deflategate, how can so many adoring fans ignore the guilt incited by a Patriots scandal? And why do enthusiastic fans start riots, even after their favorite team wins?
As we ruminate on this extreme loyalty of football fandom and sometimes dangerously dedicated behavior, storytellers can learn from fans’ strong emotions to tell their clients’ stories in a meaningful way. Football fandom is extreme for a few reasons:
- Excitement. Regardless of the outcome of a game, super-fans experience a rush of dopamine, which is the feel-good chemical produced by the brain. At INK, we work hard to break the most exhilarating and relevant news about your organization to generate a dopamine-like excitement among constituents after news announcements.
- Social Connectivity: Big sporting events bring people together. INKers are constantly thinking about new forums for engagement in a hyper-connected world, and we get pumped about new strategies to build camaraderie between your company and its key publics.
- Identity and history: Many “nomad fans” – including myself – retain these connections to home in an attempt to preserve their sense of identity. At INK, we dig deep into the values and histories of your organization and share the most meaningful narrative.
Professional communicators can generate loyalty by tapping into an audience’s excitement, tribe mentality, history, and values. The best way to offend a die-hard is to accuse them of being a “bandwagon fan” in cycles of defeat and triumph. Loyalty to your first favorite team is anticipated, and at INK, we create brand loyalty by telling stories that make even complicated technology, energy and security companies feel as familiar as your favorite football team.
Although a Broncos win is not nearly as satisfying as a Patriots win, it’s exciting to be part of a championship town – I’ll let you have your moment in the sun, Colorado. I offer you this Mile High Salute.
*Ok. Tom Brady cheated.