Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What Green Bay and Pittsburgh can Teach Marketers About Relationships

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers are set to face off this Sunday in the Super Bowl. I’ve always thought that would be a great match-up between two legendary franchises and two football towns that really know and appreciate the game.

Several years back, I did some work for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the off-season after the Chuck Noll era and before the start of the Bill Cowher era. The team was open to some ideas. In the course of preparing for the meetings and then through implementation, it was clear that from a PR standpoint, the Steelers have something that few organizations get from their major stakeholders – almost unconditional affection and support.

The amount of goodwill the franchise had built up over the years was so strong then, and continues to this day because of stability at the top and a keen understanding of how tenuous the relationship is between the business and its customers – the fans.

The Rooney family has never taken the fans for granted, and the fans know it. The management of both franchises understands the true nature of their special relationship with their fans and do everything possible to nurture it. Because of that kind of relationship, the front offices, the coaches and the players can best focus on putting a quality product on the field and in the stadium.

Not to make it all sound so easy. What these franchises do is hard. They are in small markets, and probably wouldn’t even qualify if the NFL were looking at these types of cities as potential expansion markets. Yet, both Green Bay and Pittsburgh demonstrate that a passion for a particular sports franchise can transcend demographic and other market research measures used to evaluate the business potential of a town.

The lessons for those of us in communications are basic. Know your audiences. Give them what they want. Treat them with respect. And never take the relationship for granted. Do everything with these things in mind.

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