As an athlete, the sheer size and diverse nature of your fan base can seem intimidating but like any big project it becomes more manageable once you break it down. By categorizing your fans into groupings, you can better strategize on how to engage as well as grow your overall base.
Sports fans most often fall into one of four areas, with many having crossover.
A fan based on the sport the athlete plays and/or of the level of skill they play it at.
Someone who is a fan because the athlete is from his or her hometown, home state, or home country
Fans based on the charity or faith or hobby alignment with the athlete.
Fans of the athlete because of the team they play(ed) for.
Fans that fall into more than one quadrant tend to have a stronger affinity to the athlete. Think about your own life and when you meet someone. The more similarities you have with that person, the more you feel a personal connection. For athletes, connections create ties, ties create fans, and fans create financial and emotional gain.
The Four Quadrant Fan Base allows you to focus on your fans where you can create the biggest impact. Instead of concentrating on the sheer number of Twitter followers, Facebook likes, and event attendees, spend the time quantifying each quadrant. Not only will you gain insight into your fan base, you will also generate validation for working with endorsers. Validation and strength specifics for your brand increase endorsement dollar amounts and the type of opportunities you will be presented with. My business partner Dhani Jones spends quite a bit of time reinforcing his ties to his alma mater – Michigan. His commitment and focus on that fan base has parlayed into Big 10 commentator positions and fans that have followed him regardless of professional sports team, or post sports career.
Those four quadrants are your door openers. Use them to build a fan of you the person versus only based on connection. This is important, as two of the four quadrants are transitory. You want to build fans that follow you wherever your brand path takes you, just like Dhani did with his Michigan fans. As you know, it takes more effort to gain new fans than to continue building on the relationships you already have. As athletes truly need to be efficient with their time, focusing on the four quadrants within brand building is of the upmost importance.
Katie Marston is a partner in VMGelement , a personal brand development company focusing on professional athletes. Follow her on Twitter at @ktmarston