How To Build Undying Loyalty Like A College Football Program

Kristin Mestre

College football is an awesome sporting experience, plain and simple. The on-the-field action is as exciting as it is on the professional level. But, it’s the fan experience that really takes college football to a new stratosphere.

These programs have done a masterful job at building a large-scale community, built on undying loyalty and immense support, that can only be envied by many companies around the world.

While most small and midsize businesses don’t deal directly in the business of sport, there are still strategies that any business can extract to build the kind of loyalty and customer retention that some of the biggest college football programs have created.

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Brand excitement

No matter the reasons, college football fans will give impassioned answers to the question of why they root for their favorite team. They may be alumni of the school, or they might just simply love attending the games.

An Emory University study of fan equity in college football found that the University of Texas had the highest rating based on a combination of winning percentage, bowl participation, and other factors about the student body and fan population. From the school’s success and ties to the Austin, Texas, community, the Longhorns were able to generate undying loyalty and massive excitement around their brand.

For SMBs, social media can be a great way to connect with consumers and generate excitement. According to HubSpot’s blog, 94% of SMBs use social media for marketing, and three in five said they have gained new customers through these channels.

Indeed, if a small or midsized business can provide their audience a product or service they are satisfied with – and make them excited to be a returning customer – that customer will experience serious enthusiasm about the brand. It’s vital to target customers that have a grounded interest in your product or service. From there, excitement can be built around the SMB’s brand, and the customer will be more interested in returning. And when a customer can get giddy about a business, they’re likely to return again and again.

Community breeds loyalty

Part of what makes attending a college football game so great is the experience of feeling part of a large-scale community.

A study from the Sport Journal found that “college football fans are most strongly motivated by drama, excitement, interest in team, and sport knowledge.” The higher these factors, the more of a fan they called themselves. These fans felt part of something greater than themselves and were invested to continue to build on that foundation of fandom.

Businesses are in a unique position to build communities: they generally have a central location, can provide a common sense of purpose to gather around, or have the scale to extend their outreach to a large group of people. Like the subjects of this study, SMBs can build on vested interest and excitement to generate a community around their brand. By building a community, SMBs can build an emotional investment in their brand and win customers over in the long run.

Generating an experience

From the time you show up to campus to when you drive out of the parking lot, college football is more than a game. It’s a full-fledged entertainment experience. As the Disney Institute says, “the key to success is to intentionally manage the entire service experience beyond the obvious customer ‘touchpoints.'”

While it’s tough to replicate a live sports experience, the big takeaway is this: give your customer a full-fledged experience with added value. Seventy percent of all buying experiences are based on emotion and what the customer is ultimately feeling. Customers should have a positive and engaging experience with sales and customer service from beginning to end.

For more strategies on wowing your customers, see our research on Customer Experience: OmniChannel. OmniNow. OmniWow.


Kristin Mestre

About Kristin Mestre

Kristin is a millennial marketer with 8+ years experience in high-tech and who currently leads the customer reference strategy and execution for SAP Ariba's buyer and supplier customers.