I see yet another commercial partner speaking about ‘shared values’ with the sports competition they’re sponsoring. So, am I to believe we are talking about intrinsic beliefs that connect each of the partners to each other and to their fans – believes that come alive for those people experiencing these sports brands? I’d like to think so, but my experience tells me otherwise and this press release appears to be yet another example of the fundamental reason many (the majority of?) sports fans feel that they are held at an arm’s length from the object of their love.
What values, exactly? Talk to any long term fan of any sports team and, while they all might not use the same words, they will all be able to articulate what their club STANDS for – what its values are. And here’s the problem. Fans may know what their clubs’ values are, but very few owners do. A quick read of any one of several stories in this morning’s sports pages immediately gives lie to the authenticity of any claims about ‘values’.
There’s only one question that matters: ‘Does my club / league / sport / governing body consistently act in ways that show that it has the best interests of its fans at its heart?’
Other progressive growing businesses in other sectors do that because customer engagement is so important in world where 80%+ businesses are now in the service sector. They can only prosper if the customer feels valued.
When the customer feels valued – usually when adherence to core values ensures that their experiences continually convince them that their service provider has their best interests at heart – then their resulting emotional loyalty is so strong it TRANSCENDS financial incentives, like loyalty points and ‘money off’. They trust. They forgive. They defend you. They may not say it (but they quietly love you). OK, so in these days of social media sniping and faceless message board terrorists, it might not be possible to get EVERYONE on board, but wouldn’t we all appreciate the opportunities a positively engaged (majority) supporter community would offer?
In customer-driven businesses leaders talk about it all the time. Decisions are filtered through their brand values. There are customer value KPIs. Employees matter too and there is continuous open transparent dialogue between the service provider & its customers. Employees are recruited based on their values fit. Companies like Zappos do that and, when a new employee feels uncomfortable about the implications of living these values at the end of their company induction session – or just feel it’s not for them – then they are offered $1,000 to leave. It’s that important.
The irony (or possibly even the explanation) is that by nature of our love for our teams, we already have the strongest levels of emotional loyalty (so maybe deep inside we genuinely feel there’s no need to build it any further). Isn’t it ironic then that the thing non-sports businesses envy us for the most, we simply take for granted (especially in football). But the rewards for the club that genuinely embraces the values-driven approach will be immeasurable.