In the age of the internet, big screen televisions, and fourth generation smart phones, fan promotions have become more important as franchises strive to drive gate revenues. Pons, Giroux, and Mourali (2014) note that ticket sales still account for 32.6% of total revenues—the largest share of all receipts—despite the ever-increasing, live-access to a game from outside the arena. The Golden State Warriors use of a t-shirt design contest in tandem with their fan appreciation night increased their fans’ identity while segmenting their customer base and spurring future merchandise sales.
An event promotion or giveaway boosts the benefits of a live-event, simply because the physical good cannot be obtained via media coverage. In return, the Warriors likely increase and validate the identity of their fans by providing unique memorabilia, consequently raising their fans’ sensitivity to Warriors news and encouraging these fans to act on behalf of the organization. But the Warriors go further.
Funk and Lock (2014) state that “Sport identity occurs when an individual integrates a sports team into his or her sense of self, resulting in the team becoming an integral part of their self-definition” (p. 45). The Warriors sought out the input of their fans, asking for t-shirt design submissions, and rewarded the winner by sharing their design with thousands of Warriors fans. The event encouraged designers to market the Warriors indirectly, by lobbying their own networks of friends and family to share and vote for their design; of course these benefits came at virtually no cost to the Warriors. They engaged the sport identity of their fans in multiple ways. In the process, notes Sutton (2014), they reached 350-plus fans who cared enough to submit a design, while generating 150,000-plus Facebook impressions, 5,000-plus promotional URL views, and 450-plus mentions on Twitter and Instagram. This data can now be used to more precisely measure future fan involvement, and help the Warriors measure the return on their marketing investment.
Promotions have great power to segment fans. Though there is naturally some crossover, the crowd at Bollywood Night likely differs from St. Patrick’s Day, and Family Night hits a different demographic than Singles Night. The Warriors’ Fan Appreciation Night targeted existing fan-franchise relationships, acknowledging previous fan devotion and loyalty. Better yet, they stratified that group by identifying fans devoted enough to invest time and energy in submitting a design. Both groups—aspiring designers and fans who simply wanted a cool t-shirt—received special recognition from the Warriors.
This promotion also presumably increased consumer demand for Warriors merchandise. Pons, Giroux, and Mourali (2014) remark that “It is critical for sport marketers to understand what kind of fans attend their events and how to segment them, but it is equally important to understand how to market products to these consumers and tap the rationale they follow when deciding to purchase merchandise” (p.30). A fan who receives a limited-edition, official Warriors t-shirt for free is likely to associate positively with the experience, building one’s desire to try other Warriors gear in the future, in addition to returning to the Oracle to catch a game.
Funk, D. C. and Lock, D. (2014). Sport Consumer Attitudes. In M. P. Pritchard and J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging Brands in Sport Business (pp. 37-50). New York, NY: Routledge.
Pons, F., Giroux, M., & Mourali, M. (2014). Consumer Behavior and Motivation. In M. P. Pritchard and J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging Brands in Sport Business (pp. 21-36). New York, NY: Routledge.
Sutton, B. (2014, August 4). How teams can satisfy fans’ craving for greater involvement. SportsBusiness Journal, 17(16). Retrieved from http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com