Never Use the “C” word

The number one rule of marketing to fans – Never Use the “C” word.

At Ear to the Ground we spend our time helping clients get more from their sport and music assets. Whether it’s around Premiership football, music festivals, horse racing, or the worlds biggest DJ’s, there is one word we never, ever use. It’s a word that fails to capture the true passion that we deal in, a word that reduces our audience to just another box, a word that fails to understand the opportunities in dealing with groups of people who go to remarkable lengths to like, follow, share and experience the things they love. Our golden rule… Never use the “C” Word. Never, ever use the word ‘”consumer.”

Fans of sport and music are driven by intense emotion, devotion and joy. They are characterised by a sense of identity, belonging and escape that often transcends nationality, race, language and gender. They have an insatiable hunger for news, gossip and information about the things they love. No other “product” can evoke the same emotion on the same scale or be more powerful in terms of shared experience. Consumers tend to be more rational, value driven and flighty. They shop around, make decisions based on price and generally display lower levels of intensity when dealing with goods or services. That’s why marketers in the world of sport and music should steer clear of the “C” word and always design campaigns for their audience through the lens of their fandom. What else can make young girls scream and grown men hug? And that’s the point, if you are trying to engage fans or get more from sponsorships you need to spend time trying to understand why fans behave the often irrational way they do; their rituals, their dress codes and the language they use.


This understanding can help brands, clubs, leagues and federations connect with fans to help them get more out of their partnerships and ultimately achieve their commercial objectives. It’s about establishing which part of a fan base to focus on, tracking levels of excitement and acknowledging what really motivates behaviour across different groups. Most importantly, it’s about realising that fans are here out of love and if you want them to listen to your message you need to demonstrate that you respect them and their heroes.

One of our favourite ever “power of fan” stories is from Brazilian club Vitoria, who embarked on a mission to increase blood donations in response to the low blood bank levels in the region. In order to get fans to donate, the club removed the red stripes from their famous red and black shirt, replacing them with white. As the fans got closer to the donation target each week, the red stripes gradually reappeared one by one, with the final number of donations far exceeding the clubs original targets, meanwhile generating a million dollars of media coverage. That’s the power of fans over consumers – what “consumer” would give blood for their favourite brand? The truth is, Fans behave differently and, if you really want to connect with fans and tell your marketing stories through their passion of sport or music, you should never use the “C” word.

To find out how you can connect with fans to get more from your sport or music assets, get in touch here



To receive regular fan insight enter your details below