Being a fan is waiting for 7 hours to get the best seats. Being a fan is hoping, despite imminent snow and against all odds, that you would be in the Dean Dome to watch the annual Duke vs. UNC matchup. Being a fan is trekking back 1.5 miles solely to tell everyone about how much you hate the school who postponed the game. Being a fan is getting #dookfans trending nationally so everyone can share in your passion for chastising another school. Being a fan is basically summed up by my friend Michael. I think he said it pretty well when he said: “Basketball is my religion. Today is my holiday.”
Michael didn’t grow up a Tar Heel, so what makes him such a fervent supporter? What leads him to routinely clear a chunk in his busy schedule to have 100% focus on the game at hand? What led him to become the voice of a generation of students, in the form of a Facebook page and Twitter account called UNC Memes/UNC Humor? At this point, I can only speculate because I, myself, do not practice the religion of sports the same way he does.
Fans make it their purpose to tell everyone how their team is doing, win or lose. Fans don’t desert their team mid-season if it isn’t doing well. That’s not fandom, according to fans. Fandom, according to fans, is declaring yourself the single most important person in terms of cheering on the team. And never. Ever. Stopping. Not for bad weather. Not for bad plays. Not for rivals. Especially not for rivals.
To me, sport fans seem to walk a fine line of cult/religion. Each person is just as crazed as the next mid-game, and have an indescribable connection to each other in those moments of pure joy or terror. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do the other twenty-some hours of the day. You are partners in that moment. But again, I’m an outsider looking in.
I do understand brand fandom though. I would call myself a fan of a couple of brands– Honda, for example. A lot of our family cars have been Hondas, especially lately as my sister and I have started driving. Every time I sit in my Civic, I’m happy. Does that sound weird? Just being around it makes me swell with pride. Even better– I can drive people around soak in their compliments. “Rear camera? 35 mpg highway and city? Gosh that’s great.” As if I am the Honda. I am clearly not a Honda. I’m Renee. But I do love that car.
I follow Honda on Twitter and Facebook. I love reading about their new models and pointing out all my Honda friends on the road. I’ll happily tell anyone about what Honda is up to currently.
Am I starting to sound like Michael? Well I wouldn’t say I’m as hateful toward Toyota as Michael is toward Duke. But thinking about it has definitely convinced me that yes, people can be fans of brands the way they are of sports teams.
What does that require? For me, it was consistently great experiences. But I’ve had consistently great experiences with my toilet paper too. So why am I not a Charmin fan? I would argue it has something to do with surprise. Cars are high investment, clearly. Both monetarily and trust-wise. They are what transport your most valuable items– people you love. Cars also have a lot of potential to go wrong. Lots of moving, breakable parts. Toilet paper, not so much. With cars its a great blessing to not worry about things going wrong. I think that’s the link between sports fans and brand fans. For items/teams that you continually invest a lot in, whether its your reputation and time (by declaring yourself a fan of a particular team), or money and trust, being happily surprised on a regular basis has huge payoffs for the brand/team in terms of support.