Fan psychology: turning your audience into fans

Fan psychology drives rational people to develop a passionate loyalty to their team – but why? We’d all love that level of audience engagement, so what can fandom teach us?

Professor Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sports Enterprise at the University of Salford, shared his international research on fandom at StreamAMG’s Sports Focus 2018 conference. We caught up with him to download three steps in digital video wisdom.

  1. Build a tribe
  2. Know the limits
  3. Stick to stories

1. Build a tribe

Let’s start with the good news.

‘Feelings towards a football club and a brand can be related,’ says Prof Chadwick. ‘In consumption tribes – people who identify with say Apple or Nike – people demonstrate a group identity and construct a personal identity at same time.’

This can apply to employees or even investors in organisations that communicate their purpose expertly. So any organisation can get a slice of that fan loyalty.

Birging, or basking in reflected glory, equates a winner’s success with an individual’s own accomplishment and stimulates a sense of self-glory. So all those videos you’ve made about your organisation’s successes can work, if done right.

2. Know the limits

But the brand fan/sports fan relationship are not direct copies of each other, because we configure fandom very differently to the way we configure our workplace.

Family is important in configuring sports fandom and you don’t necessarily see that at work. Chadwick attributes his support for Middlesborough FC to being taken there as a boy by his dad. He doesn’t carry that with him in his work life – work is for him, his family and fulfilling their needs.

3. Stick to stories

Prof Chadwick and his team have spent years gathering data on fan psychology, but above all he likes hearing people’s stories.

‘I’m a data translator, especially to eager people with spreadsheets. We need data, but there is a greater need to interpret, translate and tell stories around it.’ The art of storytelling, both from individual people and collective stories that emerge from surveys, is what interests him most.

Simon Chadwick, University of Salford Simon Chadwick, University of Salford

The bad and the good

The critical role of creativity concerns Prof Chadwick because it is underrated.

‘We tend not to think about what creativity means for decision-makers in business. Creativity and innovation are not taken seriously in most companies, they tend contract it out to agencies. That can lead to missed opportunities, and worse,’ he says.

He cites Roma’s transfer videos as creative, different, innovative and highly effective in engaging with fan psychology. He is less impressed by campaigns where the connection between the a brand, a sports team and the video script is unclear and potentially confusing.

Why video?

It’s worth remembering that video has a unique role to play in the psychology of successful communications.

Fans of your brand cannot always be in the right place to interact on a personal level, so video brings that sense of being there. Most human communication is non-verbal, so video delivers the body language and tone of voice that is essential to the human stories Prof Chadwick likes to hear.

It’s the human touch that can inspire that passionate loyalty.

If you’d like to know more about building a fan base with video, contact us at or speak with an expert at 0800 061 2361.