I grew up in a basketball house. Both of my brothers played basketball, my dad was a coach and I played all throughout middle school and high school. It was a sport that was very much ingrained in the fabric of my family, so it’s no surprise that I start to get excited when March rolls around. From the anticipation of Selection Sunday when the NCAA releases its brackets to the championship game, there is something about March Madness that gets everybody excited about basketball even if they don’t give a lick about the sport on any other given day.

Millions of brackets have been filled out by those who have spent hours analyzing the teams along with those who picked teams based on what their mascot is (everyone has a friend that does this). Whether you are rooting for the underdog or the team favored to win it all, March Madness seems to captivate the nation.

Cultivating the loyalty

As a Wisconsin native, when they are in the tournament, I always feel like I need to pick the Badgers to win at least one game. Even though I didn’t go to school there, I feel a strong connection to the team and get so excited to watch them succeed in the tournament. Beyond wanting the Badgers to win because of hometown pride, I also love the story of Wisconsin basketball and the story of the players on the team.

Wisconsin didn’t make the tournament this year, but I am now officially a fan of the UMBC Retrievers (along with millions of others). Again, it all comes down to their story. The Retrievers made history last week when as the 16 seed, they ousted number one seed, University of Virginia. Their Cinderella moment and story led to instant fame for the team, and according to the Baltimore Sun, that win equated to an estimated $33 million in advertising exposure.

A brand that lasts a lifetime

When you think about it, sports loyalty is really the ultimate form of brand loyalty. Most sports fans pick their favorite team at a young age, and through the good and bad, stick with that team because, well it’s their team! That love is usually passed down through generations and some of the best memories can be made while supporting that team. At the heart of this loyalty is storytelling.

Each team that someone follows has a story that is usually told over and over while they are playing. The players’ stories are told, how the program was built, what makes their journey unique, etc. These stories only enhance the connection fans feel to a certain team.

How to mimic the loyalty of sports

Imagine, if as a business you could replicate this type of loyalty. Imagine if you could build a brand loyalty so strong, that even in the difficult times, customers would stick with you. This is why storytelling should be a critical part of your communications strategy. What makes your business unique? Are you a family-owned business that goes back multiple generations? Is there a unique story to how your products are made? Figure out what your story is, who that story will connect with and then keep telling it over, and over, and over again.

When consumers can feel a connection to what you are doing and what your story is, they may form a loyalty to your business that rivals that of their favorite sports team.



-Rachel Dilling, Director of Public Relations

Plaid Swan is a full-service
marketing communications firm,
providing crisis public relations to
many companies across the United States.