Reprinted from the Rambling Moron Column at the Platte County Landmark.

THE FANS’ VOICE IS GETTING STRONGER
Posted 1/11/13

For generations, the “fan” of a team has had some very minor duties – pay for admission and cheer for your team. In return, the expectation is that every team’s ownership should take that money and invest it in a competitive club and/or spend it on hookers and booze. It’s the owner’s choice. Not the fans.

No more.

Thanks to one frustrated fan with a Twitter account and the power of social networks, the dynamics of the team owner/fan relationship may have permanently changed – at least here in Kansas City. That man is Marty McDonald and he is the one who opened @SaveOurChiefs, a Twitter account that through the course of this past football season has amassed over 95,000 followers on Twitter alone. Include their Facebook viewership and it immediately became a community that just this week saw 3.5 million hits on their Facebook page.

The movement began in a similar way that two guys at a bar would plan to open up that business they’ve been talking about. The thing is, however, this time, it worked. The account began raising money for banners, organizing blackouts and getting the attention of Chiefs ownership where it counted – in their wallet. The money they raised was more than enough to pay for planes to fly over Arrowhead and there was even some left over that will be donated to a local charity. All gained through grassroots efforts on blogs, Twitter, Reddit and Facebook.

McDonald also used transparency as to where the collected money was going – something important for online and somewhat anonymous projects such as this.

Best we can tell, it worked. Clark Hunt personally apologized to fans for the dumpster fire they were forced to witness this season and acted swiftly to hire new management and a new head coach in Andy Reid. McDonald was quoted in a KMBC story saying “I do have personal knowledge that the entire Hunt family saw the banners, they were embarrassed by them. They were frustrated.”

If this were a hostage negotiation, all demands were met. Except the big one left to be determined – winning. McDonald told me “For years, fans were only needed to support the team on game day. If you didn’t like the product you didn’t go to the game. Now, you don’t go to the game but you can interact with team and like followers to make sure your voice is heard.”

It seems to me that this marks a sea change in the power and role of a sports fan. With social media comes organization. Just as it was for Arab Spring which was responsible for massive governmental reforms in the Middle East, those same philosophies are being used for smaller purposes. Safe Our Chiefs has managed to get the attention of an ownership that was believed to be bottom line focused and distant from the desire of the fans to win.

Will we see the same type of organization for Royals fans? For people tired of poor service at their favorite restaurant? For people fed up with high gas prices? McDonald told me his research indicated that “83% of sports fans use social media during a game.” The answer is “absolutely.” As people get more organized and familiar with the power of social media, the role of the consumer undergoes a tremendous paradigm shift. As long as it is captained by good stewards such as McDonald, I predict the era of the fan has begun.