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Building a Panthers Fan

(A Change Management Article)


Building a fan works best if you start early.

I had the privilege this summer to be dragged to the Carolina Panthers summer training camp in Spartanburg, SC. Honestly, it was an enjoyable experience despite my apprehension.

It was a well-orchestrated experience from guided parking to onsite food trucks; the Panthers had considered well how to provide a low-cost customer experience. Their strategic intention may have been to increase future ticket sales by enhancing the fan experience in advance of the season’s start. However, their impact was to strengthen fan loyalty, as evidenced by the sea of lawn chairs.

We brought our lawn chairs and set up even with the midfield, on the green hillside overlooking the practice fields at Wofford College. We then watched the team run drills, the coaches yell at their players, and the players execute successfully and unsuccessfully as they began to fall into their rhythms.

We watched Cam Newton work through recovery drills, and flirt with the crowd; seeing his entertainment personality grow as those on the hill began to respond to his antics. We watched Cam open the barrier to pose for a picture and sign autographs for a youth football team.

We watched Luke Kuechly coach younger players in between iterations, helping them work through specific techniques, and take charge of his peers for a couple of extra drills after everyone else had left the field.

By the time it was over, I carried a sunburn and an empty water cooler back to the car.

But the best part of the day was my daughter leaning over to explain the drills, identify the players by number, cite previous season stats, point out who to watch, sympathize with who was injured, and in general act as my personal color commentator. It was her excitement and enthusiasm that encouraged me to be a little more of a fan.

My daughter is a Carolina Panthers fan. It had been eight years since she had been able to see her beloved team in person, and almost as long since she had seen them on TV. Her fanship relegated to online streaming and YouTube replays. Her earnestness reflected in waking up at 2 am to watch her team play half a world away. But this year, she was stateside for a few weeks as she transferred to teach at a school in the Caribbean.

But her journey as a football fan is not recent; it began when she was in kindergarten, just as Jerry Richardson was building his franchise. Most Fridays, a parent would bring Cook Out fries and milkshakes into the kindergarten classroom. And while this may not have been the most healthy of school snacks, it was extremely effective. Any child could have some … as long as they were a football fan.

I am a fan of several examples of good leadership manifested that day at the training camp.

1) I am a fan of the Carolina Panthers. Their willingness to build a positive customer experience as both an introduction to the team and a bolstering of current fans demonstrates an understanding of their customer base.

2) I am a fan of Luke Kuechly. His simple, unobtrusive coaching and encouragement were not flashy but effective in building change at the individual level.

3) I am a fan of the parent who turned my daughter into a football fan, though sometimes I have to wonder when Panthers mania takes over my daughter’s body. The parent showed a good understanding of creating both a burning platform (no fries) and a heavenly vision (milkshake nirvana) to turn a whole generation into fans.

4) I am a fan of my daughter. Her willingness to freely share her knowledge of the events on the field and the rationale behind those events, allowed me to see past the heat and sunburn to the value behind her passion.

Often when we lead change, it is the personal contact, the intimate sharing, and the open dialog with an enthusiastic supporter that encourages us to embrace the change.

Fans are built early. The Panthers built their fans before the preseason started, Luke Kuechly built fans before taking the field, my daughter became a fan before she knew what football was, and I became a fan when my daughter invested in me before I cared about the Carolina Panthers.

Part of our role as leaders is to build fans of change in our enterprises. And while changing an FSU Seminole fan into a Carolina Panthers maniac is harder, it can be done. Likewise, it is easier if we build fans for change before the change season starts.

Building a fan works best if you start early.

© 2019 Barry Robbins, Silver Bear Solutions

Contact The Author

Barry Robbins is an IT Executive with a strong record of success in transforming IT organizations by envisioning, developing, and implementing IT business solutions.


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