An experience I remember fondly was when I was dating my husband, and he invited me to my very first professional football game at Arrowhead Stadium. The preparations began the night before as his mother prepared the traditional egg casserole and cinnamon rolls and his father loaded the red Jeep with a red picnic table and red blankets. Not knowing what to expect, my red contribution was the color of beer cans I brought with me.

We all loaded up in the red Jeep and weaved dangerously through traffic, passing fellow Chief’s fans with flags flying, before finding just the right spot. Next steps: unload, set up shop, commence celebration.

Bring on the heat, rain, cold, sun, or snow. None of that would stop the smell of charcoal on the grills from filling my nose, the sight of the occasional Zubaz pants, the sound of Bryan Truta over the PA in the distance, the Pope of KC and his congregation near their first-class tailgating set up blessing fellow fans.

Once everyone was ready and the game was about to begin, we made our way to the stadium. Smashed up against thousands of my closest friends and being greeted by the smiling ticket takers, we made the climb up the circle ramp, joining in on the deafening yet beautiful sound of the Tomahawk Chop.

I get goosebumps just thinking about it!

But like me, most football fans don’t just wake up and declare their love for a team. They have an experience, memory, a feeling wash over them too. James Royer and the rest of his Digital Media team at the Kansas City Chiefs recognized that too.

The Kansas City Chiefs Are the Most Contagious Brand on Facebook

But how can you foster a feeling half way across the globe in London where fans had not yet identified with a team. As Jeffrey Rohrs articulates in Audience: Marketing in the age of subscribers, fans, and followers, “FANS want to express and share their passion for something they enjoy.”

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Here are the steps the Kansas City Chiefs use to enhance their fan’s experience with social media:

  1. Give them the tools. Be Innovative. Many fans would be traveling abroad for vacation and attending the game. Even business executives traveled to London to share the experience with clients and potential clients. When any of us go on vacation, the one thing we all come back with is pictures. So Royer and his team saw the big red opportunity in the thousands of photos that would be taken, and they wanted to make sure the Chiefs played a part inside and outside of the stadium. They distributed translucent cards, the size of a credit card, with one of the players on the front to all season ticket holders traveling to the game. The idea was since people are already snapping photos of monuments and documenting their trip, bring it all together.
  2. Build a foundation. Royer and his team leveraged a group of 500+ fans already bleeding red and gold in the UK known as Arrowheads Abroad. They wanted to build upon these folks to create an army of contributors or storytellers.
  3. Reinforce the foundation. Be Disruptive. The Chiefs already had a solid base of existing fans, but how do they convert the casual football fans in the UK into Kansas City Chiefs fans? They decided to give them the experience of being at Arrowhead and create a massive tailgate. For many football fans, what better way to win them over than to buy them a beer. So they did! For 3 hours before the game, 800 season ticket holders and fans were invited to a local pub for a beer on the Chief’s tab.And those that couldn’t make the tailgate were not forgotten. 80,000 Chief’s Kingdom flags were passed out to fans upon entering the stadium. If you were one of the few who missed the game, the vision of 80,000 Chief’s flags waving on foreign soil was breathtaking.
  4. Create a Gathering Place. Capitalize on Passion. They built the story, now they need to publish. With nearly 1.5 million Facebook fans, 500,000 Twitter followers, and 300,000 Instagram followers, Royer and his team created the hashtags #KingdomsUnite and #ChiefsKingdom to spread their message. They leveraged the passion of their fans and let them be their storytellers. You never saw a multi-million dollar television ad or other expensive forms of traditional media. They embraced the power of social media and the impact of storytelling by their audience.

Awesome, but what about my brand?

Not all of us can say we have a multi-million-person audience to work with. And many of us don’t have even a fraction of marketing budget the Chiefs do. So how can we even come close to executing a strategy like this?

Well, all is not lost. Refer back to the example of my first professional football game. How I felt (go back through, I even italicized the words for you) was the way I described the interaction. The Chief’s created a feeling around the London game.

So look at your audience, big or small. Friends, followers, likes, customers, fans, employees, partners, donors, etc. and ask out WHY they are connected to you? Why did they buy your product or service? Why did they subscribe to your newsletter? Why did they donate to your cause? And if you don’t know the answer and can’t segment by the connection, ASK!

Jeffrey Rohrs breaks this need into Seekers, Amplifiers, and Joiners. Before you go any further with marketing campaigns or content creation, make sure you know which category your existing audience falls into and you have a solid understanding of what made them connect with you at that level. Then embrace them, hold them close and don’t let them stray away to your competition.

Then when you know the WHY, step back through the approach above. Good luck and #GoChiefs!