Football fandom and the Association Principle

The association principle can manifest as associating with a sports team, especially a sports team that’s well-liked or performing well.

A referee voodoo doll with pins stuck in it. Next to the doll is a pin cushion with additional pins for patrons of the shop to stick in the doll.
A day after the January 20, 2019 NFL Conference Championship game where the New Orleans Saints lost to the Los Angeles Rams, I walked into a New Orleans craft store to find this referee voodoo doll prominently displayed. The store owner invited me to push another a pin into the doll. Many residents of New Orleans blame the game loss on a referee’s bad interception call.

A while ago, I was listening to a local radio station when a female caller asked a dating question. She’d been on a few dates with a guy and noticed that he is what is often referred to as a “super fan.” His apartment was covered in logos and memorabilia from a particular sports team. His clothing also was mostly for that team, down to the slippers he wore. And his vehicle was covered with stickers for the team.

Her problem? The rival team is her team.  Her question was whether he’d continue to date her when he found out.

But I think her question should have been, “Why does this guy so heavily associate with the team?”

Association Principle

The association principle is when two or more things that are not related are somehow connected in our minds to create a relation between them. For example, in Ivan Pavlov’s famous study where he rang a bell and the fed dogs, the dogs eventually connected the bell to food and began salivating when he rang the bell, even in the absence of food. They’d associated these two things with one another food + bell.

Association Principle and Advertising

Advertisers absolutely love the association principle because they can associate their product or service to another positive product or service to drive sales.

Examples:

  • Marlboro cigarettes + tough cowboy = Men who smoke Marlboro cigarettes are tough and rugged.
  • Corona + beaches = The drink you should drink at the beach or to feel like you’re at the beach is Corona.
  • Successful business person endorsement + book = Successful business people read this book. If you want to be successful, you should too.
  • Beautiful celebrity + skincare product = If you use this product, you’ll be like this celebrity.
  • National Basketball League (NBA) + Nike shoes = If you want to be in the NBA or play like NBA players, wear Nike shoes.

There’s also the fun world of negative advertising association, in which a competitor works to associate your brand with something undesirable.  For example, it’s rumored that a competitor to the Gucci brand sent Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi a Gucci handbag to make Gucci less desirable to luxury buyers.

Self-Esteem, Association Principle & Football

Yet another way of looking at the association principle is through the lens of social status and self-esteem. The belief is that if we surround ourselves with favorable people and things then that positivity will also be associated with us. One example is people with low self-esteem and low social status. In these cases, a person has a tendency to want to associate with someone or something of a higher or “winning” status.

And, as by now you’ve probably guessed, that can manifest as associating with a sports team, especially a sports team that’s well-liked or performing well. Think about some of the behaviors that sports fans exhibit:

  • Fans watching the game in a bar giving other fans “high-fives” when their football team scores a touchdown even though they didn’t physically complete the play themselves.
  • Someone becoming a “super fan” of a university football team even though they never attended that university.
  • University students saying “we won” when their university’s team wins and “they lost” when their university team loses. By doing so, they are associating themselves when the team does well by using “we” and distancing themselves when the team does poorly by using “they.” (Cialini et al. 1976)
  • A fan believing “their team” won’t win if the fan doesn’t wear a certain shirt or eat a certain food during the game.

While enjoying a sports game can be a fun hobby and someone with a favorite team doesn’t necessarily suffer from low self-esteem, it’s interesting to look at the most extreme examples of sports fandom and try to understand the potential motivation behind it.

Entrepreneurs and effective marketing

We worked on increasing the effectiveness of their marketing through understanding the Broken Windows Theory for marketing and how it can increase the effectiveness of marketing for their business. 

Last night I had the pleasure to work with 25 entrepreneurs/small business owners as part of an Idea Village workshop in New Orleans. We focused on increasing the effectiveness of the marketing of their businesses through understanding the Broken Windows Theory.

Thank you to everyone who came to the workshop. I look forward to continuing dialogue with you all (y’all)!

Further reading about Broken Windows Theory for marketing:

Effective marketing using the Broken Windows Theory

Addressing the question: Why is branding so important

Your employees can make or break your marketing

The small touches in your business ensure success

Broken Window: TOO nice of a vehicle

Broken Window: Bad drivers in company vehicles

A marketer walks into a bridal show…

I decided to venture into the New Orleans Bride Magazine’s Bridal Show to see how truly crazy a bridal show really is. And I wasn’t disappointed.

As a bride-to-be, and someone who is fascinated by all types of marketing, I decided to venture into the New Orleans Bride Magazine’s Bridal Show to see how truly crazy a bridal show really is. And I wasn’t disappointed.

The main irony of the show for me was having to pay to go; I paid $20 to wander around and let people try to sell things to me. Where else does this happen without any other content? I can’t think of any examples, but not only did most brides pay it, they brought their whole entourage with them, and they each paid as well. They must know something I don’t know, right?

Once I got past that, I arrived at the event, checked-in, and was promptly adorned by a smiling staff member with a “Bride” sticker.  Ah, so now they can tell who the ultimate decision maker is, interesting. Unless you’re a bride, of course. With the bride sticker on, I felt like a deer wandering into a hunter’s camp. They now knew exactly who to target.

A woman's left chest and shoulder with a hot pink round sticker that says, "Bride" attached to her purple shirt.
This sticker apparently says, “Hi, sell me everything.”

“Bride” sticker target correctly fixed to my shoulder, I got my “goodie” bag and free drink ticket, and walked into the show.  This is the first of two price justification or sunk cost cognitive points, as you as a bride can always try to justify going to these by saying, “Oh, I’ll get a bunch of goodies, which makes up for paying $20 entry fee,” right? Well, you could, but as with most “goodie” bags, it was filled with literature vs. things you’d want, so the justification falls flat quickly. I did pick-up a few fun things on the way, but they most certainly didn’t add-up to $20.

A photo of a bright pink bridal show bag, two cookies, bride and groom koozies, a flipbook, and a huge pile of literature for various magazines, wedding venues, etc.
Bridal show “goodie” bad. Note that the food, koozies, and flipbook weren’t in the bag, I picked-those up at stops at the show. So, the bag was mostly literature.

 

And off I go, into a sea of vendors physically pulling me into their booths, clipboards being shoved into my hands to fill-out for prizes, and calls to try free samples of food and cake.  This is the second of two price justification or sunk cost cognitive points, as you as a bride can always try to justify going to these by saying, “I’ll get dinner out of this.” Which is true, you could get dinner, but the irony of eating at these events is that a good amount of brides are trying to lose weight and the samples are definitely not healthy or going to help with that.  Also, taking their food triggers a feeling of reciprocity; if you are eating their food, there’s a good chance you’ll feel obligated to listen to them, fill out their form, etc.

Photo of buffet table of free food at a bridal show
Plenty of (unhealthy) food at the event, which is ironic if you think about brides wanting to lose weight.

I ate dinner ahead of time, so I avoided the calorie-bomb food, but took full advantage of the “prize” sign-ups as I was curious how many of these would follow-up with me after the show and, hey, if I won a prize, that’d be cool too. Unfortunately for the show organizers, I kept track of what prizes I signed-up for and what vendors I gave my name to, which lead me to shock #1: they’d clearly given (cough, sold) my contact information to all of the vendors there, as many vendors that I hadn’t given my information to contacted me.

Shock #2 was the predatory nature of some of the vendors. Two of the vendors that contacted me appeared to be high pressure cookware sales companies. They offer you a big prize (such as a free vacation) and knife for coming to a “cooking demonstration.” Now I love to see my experiments through to the end, but they required me to bring my fiancé along, and that’s just too much suffering on his part for me. So vague company names and details, too high priced of giveaways, and reading horror stories online from other brides will have to suffice as evidence that the companies are high pressure sales situations, similar to timeshares.

Was it an awful time? The above might seem that way, but I had fun; it was interesting to see some of the interesting products out there, such as a cake make entirely of cheese from St. James Cheese Company and a Flipbook from Funtastic Fotos. And, it’s fascinating to break down the bridal show business model, as a marketer and a bride, and see the various elements of it.

A stack of continually smaller cheese rounds and squares to make cheese look like a "cake"
St. James Cheese Company’s creative “Cheese cakes” with cheese samples.

 

Tips for brides going to a bridal show:

  • Enjoy it for what it is.
  • You don’t have to wear the bride sticker.
  • Stick to local, small business vendors.
  • Ask how you can remove your contact information from the list provided to vendors.
  • Think about what you want to accomplish before you go, do you want to find more options for your venue? Do you want to find fun gifts for your groomsmen? Then only go visit those vendors.
  • Eat a meal before you go. Not only will your waistline thank you, but you won’t be drawn into conversations with vendors you don’t want to because you’re grabbing their food.
  • Smile and say “no thank you” you if you aren’t interested.
  • Only claim prizes if it doesn’t mean you have to do something else. Giving them your address of whatever they need for tax purposes is one thing, having to attend another event to “claim” your prize is a red flag that it’s a high pressure sales situation.