NFL Front Office Management – Customer (fan) connection

I recently ran across an interesting blog by John Bossong called “Leaders know connection matters”.  Emphasis was connecting with customers from a business perspective, but not just through the expanding realm of social media.  Bossong made a point that the really GREAT companies never lose the one on one human element of contact.   I tend to transfer everything into a professional football management perspective and tried to envision whether or not the NFL was doing a good job along these same lines.

Techno connections

The National Football League has embraced technology as well as any other professional sport.  Growing partnerships through multimedia packages & programs have brought the overall football experience closer to fans.  There are more whiz bang gizmos and blowhard blogs (yours truly included) than ever before.  You know what’s said about opinions and there certainly are plenty to go around.  High tech coverage of live game action makes watching professional football more interactive and enjoyable from the confines of the couch perhaps than actually attending a game.

All of this has driven up TV ratings and made the NFL an industry that continues to thrive even in a stagnate economy.  We’re all looking for an escape, something to take our minds off the everyday problems that life throws at us like a “Big Ben” spiral.  Digitized voices and faces elaborate on the “emotion of the moment” before, during, and after the game.

Is the connection real?

But are the League and its owners keeping real connection with their fan base, or are they allowing third party media outlets to do that for them?  Remember a time when the NFL, its players, and the game were a little easier to approach?  The announcement of the New York Giants moving their training camp within the confines of their own facility is just another example of how NFL organizations are pulling away from that human element of connection.

Play60 commercials and United Way ads show NFL players in and around their communities, and certainly there are many that devote time and money to causes they hold near and dear.  The NFL is quick to point this out.  But again, how connected are the actual clubs to the locals?  Some players and team personnel seem to see interaction with the fan base as a necessary evil of the job rather than a brand building opportunity.

Offseason connections

Once the season ends, most of the players shift to “vacation mode” and disappear to their own hometowns to unwind and recharge.  Clubs begin preparations for offseason retooling through Free Agency and the Draft.  It’s a “season within the season” that’s become a closely followed component, but delivered primarily through the same lines of media communication.

John Bossong stresses why this customer interaction is so important.

  1. Connecting creates trust.
  2. Connecting creates loyalty.
  3. Connecting makes it personal.
  4. Connecting involves commitment.
  5. Connecting involves spending time with customers.
  6. Connecting builds your brand.
  7. Connecting enables your employees to engage with customers, make decisions and the opportunity to fail.  But they learn and grow.

Real connection

An enjoyable sight every summer is the Green Bay Packer players riding young fans’ bikes to and from practice.  I’d like to see more traditions like this.

  • Why do we have to see GM’s, Head Coaches, and Owners standing stiff at the podium holding up a 1st Round jersey with their latest franchise acquisition?  Rather let’s see a loyal season ticket holder welcome the newest star into the fold of the fan base, standing front and center at the news conference instead.
  • How about high school players warming up the QB’s and Wide Receivers prior to the start of camp?
  • Bring in aspiring young talent scouts to do an interactive film session with some of the club’s evaluators from the Personnel Department during draft meetings.
  • With the first round all but decided and now a one pick – primetime affair, why not have the selection as an opening night interaction with the fans?  Put on a party at your facility or stadium, black tie formal or painted faces crazy, with the announcement made right then and there!
  • Even the League has thoughts of opening up Lucas Oil Field for the annual NFL Combine to fans.

Some clubs get this, others don’t have a clue.  The NFL makes an effort with its umbrella programs, but some ownerships could definitely do a better job connecting to their customer base – the fans.

As Bossong suggests, Don’t underestimate the power of connection.  Especially, the human connection.  What will your customers feel and think after their interaction?  Will they advertise for you or be indifferent?  No reaction means no connection.  Make it personal and connect, really connect with your customers.”

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