Creating Derby Fans (Part 4)

Derby fans can be grown. We just have to figure out how

     The psychology of sports fans and how we as humans become fans of a particular team is well documented and very consistent. There is a weird concoction of parts social and parts emotional that go in to the mix of a fan garden.

    The difficulty for the derby community is we have to find the right conditions for growth. As a sport arguably still in its infancy there hasn’t been that much time for a lot of people to become superfans. As a sport dominated by women it further bucks the norm as it doesn’t fit a lot of the societal expectations; which, rather than being a weakness, is where its strength lies.

     Most of the research into this area puts a lot of focus on boys becoming sports fans. Initially I wasn’t sure how that was going to fit with trying to grow derby fans. There were some very interesting tidbits I found along the way that I think we could put our focus on.

     Celebrity journalist Robert Krulwich writes an article “How We Become Sports Fans: The Tyranny of our Fathers” in which he shares with the reader the results of a study from Daniel Wann about the influences young people report as most important in choosing their sports team. The number one influence? Dads. Fathers dwarf all other influences. Does this mean Dad’s are the key to planting more derby fans? Probably not as I’ll explain below.

Males Females
My father

38.7%

31.3%

My mother

4.8

2.7

My grandfathers

1.9

0.7

My grandmothers

0.4

0.4

My husbands

0.0

1.7

My wives

0.0

0.0

My son(s)

0.0

0.6

My daughter(s)

0.0

0.2

My brother(s)

10.7

5.0

My sister(s)

0.8

1.9

My uncle(s)

1.9

1.5

My aunt(s)

0.0

0.2

My friends (no gender noted)

10.1

7.1

My boyfriend(s)

0.0

6.9

My girlfriend(s)

0.0

0.0

My school

8.0

14.6

My coach

2.5

0.7

Media

6.9

4.1

From <http://www.npr.org/sections/krulwich/2011/10/24/141649929/how-we-become-sports-fans-the-tyranny-of-fathers>

     According to a 2010 WFTDA study, 59% of fans that had attended a bout were female while 41% were male. The largest age demographic was 25-34 years old representing 41% of all derby fans. Within this age bracket 63% of the fans are female.

https://wftda.com/sponsors/2010-demographic-information

If I look closer to home, NERDerby’s page is liked by 77% women to 22% men. The largest age bracket is the same 25-34 year old and represents 44% of our fans.

     I dont think that any of this comes as a surprise to anyone. So if there are more female fans, does that mean there are fewer dads to encourage kids to become fans of your team? Well, based on a cursory glance at the numbers I’d say “probably” but there is a lot more to it than that.

     How many of those 25-34 year olds would have had kids that are 8 years old at the time (2010)? I would dare guess some but not many. The WFTDA report was compiled six years ago. Now ask yourself , how many more 8-12 year olds do you think are around now from that initial 41%? Probably more eh? Could there now be a generation of kids ready to become fans? Perhaps!

     In derby, the traditional model of patriarchal formation of a child’s favorite team likely does not exist and may not ever until a child can be assured of “couch time” with dad. Therefore, I hypothesize that every reason for following a sports team below “My father” in the above spreadsheet has a chance to be a larger impact on encouraging the creation of a fan in the case of roller derby.

What we chose to do to engage with young fans in our world potentially has a bigger impact than other sports and therefore more of the responsibility lies with the skaters.

Sheilia TeKillya spends time with a fan.

Image © Justin Russell http://www.justinrussellphotography.com/

     After their games, Central Maine Derby has often spent time signing autographs for kids. Girls and boys all come down to the track and for a few minutes get to  have an experience with the players. I can attest that these kids are excited and maybe even a little nervous at meeting the players. This is a good thing. It’s not hard to imagine that these kids are sizing you up to be a role model. Maybe you have already impacted someone’s life! With more of the burden falling on the participants–and we know time is often limited–see what you can do to reach out to young people. Roller derby is one of the few remaining sports where a young person can meet their role model face-to-face without purchasing a special pass. This is an opportunity that we cannot afford to overlook

     We all know that whether youre a kid or an adult, you tend to follow the “big leagues” of whatever your sport happens to be. It just goes hand in hand. As a little leaguer you probably follow major league baseball. You have a team you like and players you cheer for.

In 2010, there were over 40 junior roller derby programs. According to the JRDA website there are now 112 across the globe. We may now be in the perfect time for starting junior derby programs. www.juniorrollerderby.org

     One of the byproducts of a junior derby program is the fostering of newly sprouted derby fans. I say byproduct because you don’t create a junior derby program to fill seats at your “A” teams games. It doesn’t work that way. It’s an article for another time on why teams seek to create junior teams.

I had the chance recently to send a few questions over to Boston Junior Derby and Maya Mangleyou was kind enough to spend some time answering them.

I asked “Did kids want to play derby because they watched the Boston teams or did they find junior derby first and then become fans”.

It’s kind of all over the place to be honest. We had one skater in BJD that had been a fan and coming to bouts since she was really tiny, and then did junior derby with us for our first two sessions.

Largely though, they become more hardcore fans once they’re in our league. It’s multifaceted:

1.) juniors in our league get in for free, so almost all of them come to every game. And they tend to sit together, since they’re friends.

2.) they understand the game more and begin to think critically.

3.) their coaches are the players, and they cheer for us!

After our juniors saw me play for the first time, a league-mate of mine said, “I know why you started this juniors league, to build your own personal fan club!” They really enjoy watching the adults play. They’re really cute though, and tend to make signs, and get pictures taken with their coaches/other skaters at the bout. – Maya Mangleyou

I asked gave follow up statement, “I think everyone agrees that ‘Jr Derby is great for the sport’ but don’t fully understand “why” it’s good for the sport. “

Agreed, I’m not sure people have thought critically about it. Mostly the very surface appeal is like “aww! babies in skates!”

Which is true, AND adorable. But the next level of this is thinking about how juniors as fans changes your fan base and how you do bouts. Like for example, making sure your language (promotional/derby names/announcers) is family friendly but also building up the skaters in your promotional material. Since we’ve had more and more kids at our games too, we do games (wheel toss!) at half time instead of always some kind of act/show.

We haven’t had any skaters age up yet — the earliest that might happen is this mid-season draft. So we haven’t seen THAT aspect of junior derby affecting the adult league just yet. Mostly it’s been a change in how kids in our audience engage with skaters. -Maya Mangleyou

Thanks to Maya for taking the time. Her personal experience serves to underscore the fact that the traditional model of when a child becomes a fan is kind of out the window with derby. Your outreach and engagement has now become the number one influence in developing the fertile soil of fandom for our youth.

Creating Derby Fans (Part 3)

Creating Fans pt .3

That episode where Chad got a little mad at local media.

Let me start off by saying I think it’s great when derby is covered by local media. It’s encouraging and necessary.  I also don’t think what’s being done is good enough and I don’t think we should be satisfied.  Getting media attention can be difficult.  There is a lot to compete with with all the national and local sports.   If we want to build a fan base, the existing and prospective fans need to see the sport and they need to see the results.  Fans need material to make the emotional connections that drives them to say “We won” or “We lost”

Central Maine Derby was fortunate enough to have a nice piece done about them. WABI Interviews CMD.  They are having a meet and great and WABI brought the cameras out and did a couple of great interviews. They (WABI) should be commended for that.  I was SO excited to see people I knew and glad to see the sport represented well by the women from CMD.

On the page with the recent WABI interview I find there are three other archived stories it suggests. The other three dated stories are all stories about the outreach programs local derby teams are doing.

I went over to check with WVII to see what they had. They also had four articles that were mostly general human interest stories. Except one! They covered CMD’s inaugural bout against the RIP Tides…and gave the score! The tides took the win 195-87. That was in 2013.

Recently it was announced that ESPN 3 would be airing two games from The Big O tournament as well as the WFTDA championships again.  ESPN OMG This is so huge.  SOOOOO HUGE. It shows that the WFTDA is doing its part to do what derby needs on the national scale. I would LOVE to know how much work went in to securing this.  This had to be a very interesting process and I believe there are some nuggets we call could use when talking local.  I have a request for a little more on how that came about.  I’ll share once I get something back!   That leaves the local to us. Me and you.  We got this!

Here is my big concern and ultimately the takeaway. Where are the news media after the games? Where are the scores and highlights? Where is the sideline reporter? Where are the interviews with the MVP’s?   It’s not going to start happening until we ask for  it.

It’s my opinion, for what it’s worth, that until this happens media outlets will continue to treat roller derby as a novelty.  So what do we do about it?

1. Start submitting your scores and mvps to local media as soon as the game is over. You’ll find areas to do so on most of the respective sites.

2. Invite the local sports writers and reporters to your games. You may have to stalk them. You need to make a concerted and determined effort to get them in. Be prepared to explain the game and sit a derby guru with them to answer questions.

3. Any time you have an event, share the information directly with local media. Get it in their face!

4. Is the news team coming to do a story on you? Invite them to come back for a game. Ask for contact information. Email and Cell number.

Want to talk more about this?  Lets do that!  nerderby@gmail.com

Facebook: Nerderby   Twitter: @Nerderby
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Creating Roller Derby Fans (Part 2)

Today’s post comes at the suggestion of Dylan Powell over on our Facebook page. “Love your passion for the sport. Would love to see you reach out and do interviews with leagues who have either had consistently large fan bases, or massive peaks – thinking Minnesota and Seattle mostly. It would be great to get perspective from people within leagues who have been successful in building fan bases over the years as to what has worked and hasn’t worked for them.”

Thanks for the suggestion Dylan. That was a great call.  Madame de Stompadour from MNRG took the time to answer some questions.  Enjoy!

 

It was suggested that I reach out to you folks to talk about your fan base. I’m hoping I can ask a few questions and then share your answers with some of our readers here.

Hello, I’m Madame de Stompadour and I have been skating with the Minnesota RollerGirls (MNRG) since 2009. In that time, I have served as a Co-Director of the Marketing Committee, a 2015 International WFTDA Championships Tournament Host Liaison, event organizer, home team member and All-Star, and as a home team captain. Our league was founded in 2004, so I was not around for the tremendous amount of hard work that our early league members and founders put in. They laid the strong foundation we rely on. But I’ve been lucky to meet and work with many of them, and enjoy their stories of the olden days.

First, I’m sure your group started with a similar fan base as most any other team.  

The first thing I want to say is that no roller derby league is an island. We are proud to be skater owned and operated, but building a fan base is most successful with the help of local partners.

Do you recall when the fan base started to grow?

As you might have heard, roller derby was this totally exciting oddball punk thing in 2004. Our league founders, the Donnelly sisters, heard about roller derby and flew down to Texas to visit the Texas Rollergirls and learn how they could start a Minnesota league. We skated our first season in a roller rink before the combination of the 2004-05 NHL lockout and a new sponsorship agreement with Pabst Blue Ribbon convinced the Saint Paul RiverCentre to give us a chance and let us rent the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, which has been our home ever since.

Also, Whip It’s release in 2009 gave all leagues – including ours – a huge bump in local buzz and ticket sales. Tons of people still say that they heard of modern roller derby from Whip It.

Were there direct actions you took during this time?

We dreamed big. Of course we flyered and Myspaced and texted friends on our flip phones. But we also made strong connections with local sponsors who fit the demographic of fans we were trying to attract at the time: the most popular local pizza chain, ”affordable” beer, a cool ad agency, and a public radio music station geared toward college students and young professionals. Many of these connections were made by leveraging our skaters’ connections through their own jobs, friends, and family. We also worked with the staff of the Saint Paul RiverCentre’s Roy Wilkins Auditorium to create a unique fan experience once we got fans in the door. But one of the main things we did and have always done is prioritize our fans and sponsors, and work hard to form and maintain those relationships.

What role has “Educating the community” around you played?

If you want to move beyond whatever picture national TV has painted of roller derby – staged fights, elbows, high-top roller skates, murder most foul (stenched) – then you need to talk to people in your community. Our league members are required to work a set number of events each season, which include things like our sponsors’ block parties, huge local women’s marathons, TV and radio news segments, hockey tournaments, being special guests at charity events, “celebrity” judges at local contests, and our most successful: a booth at the annual Minnesota State Fair. We also use our social media accounts to talk about the game when we can, but talking about derby in person is better. It’s important to make sure that everyone on the league who will be interacting with the public has their roller derby spiel down. We send out talking points before participating in big events, and provide new members with a list of facts for their edification. Things like: what is roller derby, where we skate, when we were founded, when our next game is, what time our bouts start, what our teams are, who we play, how much we have donated to charity, the fact that league is volunteer owned and operated, et cetera.

On bout night, we are lucky to have great announcers who know roller derby and can accurately talk strategy in real time. We also encourage league members to interact with fans on bout night by skating around and doing things like handing out programs or dancing with kids at halftime. In 2013 we worked with a local animator to create this Derby 101 video, which we continue to play at all of our bouts and promotional events where we bring a TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYjquN50Rf4

I’m sure there isn’t just one single thing that’s led to your success in building a great fanbase.  

Nope. Lots of hard work and relationship management. And league members who didn’t let things fall through the cracks.

What are some of the key things you always suggest? 

 

Honestly we don’t get asked that often! See the list below for my suggestions. But also value your own league members’ suggestions – your league knows your fans and your city best (it is to be hoped).

 

What is the low hanging fruit that you think some leagues are not taking advantage of?

First of all, your league needs to decide what you want. Yeah you want more fans, but are you willing to dedicate the time and resources to do it? Are your league members and volunteers on board? Or does your league favor more of a club set-up, where everything is financed by and geared toward the members’ wishes? Hey man, some of our league members hate doing promotional events, getting their photo taken for the website, or having a drafting system that discourages the formation of home team superteams – but the trade-off is worth it to us, and we are incredibly proud of what we’ve built in the past 12 years. So if you want to build a bigger fan base, step zero is to get your league on board. Here are the rest of my suggestions:

  1. Take stock of your assets. Where do your league members work? Who are they related to? What kind of talents do your league members have?
  2. Get organized. What’s your league’s mission statement? What are your priorities? What do you want to accomplish – not paying dues, moving to a better venue, financing team travels, landing bigger sponsors, donating to charity? What’s your demographic and what do they like? Who’s in charge of what on your league? Who’s following up to make sure things are getting done?
  3. Make a plan. A realistic plan.
  4. Be professional. The venues and sponsors you are working with are professionals. This is their job. So it’s important to present yourself and your league as a great partner for their business. Sure, many love the edgy side of derby, and understand that we are all volunteers – but they also want to work with a group who will answer their emails and support their bottom line.
  5. See what your venue can do for you. Are they willing to help you with marketing? Do they have connections to local organizations you can leverage? Can their staff work with you to improve the lighting, sound, food or beverage options, or comfort of your fans on game night?
  6. Website and social media. Make sure your online presence is easy to find and up to date.
  7. Relationship management. This is super key, and goes back to “be professional.” The best and most reliable salespeople on your league should be your sponsorship and venue go-tos. Another aspect of this is within the league itself. League members should treat officials, volunteers, and each other with respect. Value everyone’s time and work. We’re all in this together, and we all work incredibly hard – but a little conversation, a check-in or a high five can go a long way.
  8. Yearly review. At the end of the season, it’s good to take a look at the numbers and discuss as a league what worked, what didn’t, and what you want to accomplish or implement the next year.
  9. Prioritize your fans. If you want fans, you have to prioritize your fans – within reason, and as long as it fits your league’s mission. What can you do to make bout night more exciting and engaging? Is there kid friendly stuff? Food? Drinks? Sponsor giveaways? Games? Music? Do skaters spend time with fans?
  10. Have fun. Seriously. Roller derby can be stressful, but people can tell when you’re having fun, and then you sweep them up on your wave of fun and they’ll think to themselves “well this looks fun… maybe I can volunteer and have fun too!!” and then together you can take over the world. Or at least the city.

Thanks a TON to Madame de Stompadour for sharing such great insight.  Now…Take this article back to your teams and discuss.  We’ll talk more next week.

Creating Roller Derby Fans (Part 1)

(Originally from our Facebook page.)

Do your fans say “We won”?
Part 1.

I had written quite a long post earlier this morning and pushed posting it till the last second. Well, the last second was actually too long. Lost it all due to a dead battery on my phone. Afterwards though I decided it was probably for the best. What I had written was probably important enough to expound on and break up in to many posts.

I want to talk about fans. Fans in the truest sense of the word. When you lose, they feel they have lost, when you win, they celebrate with you because they won. I believe for the most part derby has what it takes to deliver to those fans. It’s got the right mix of “Sports ingredients” Where its lacking though is in fan creation and retention. Over the next few whenevers I’m going to talk about some things I’ve noted over the last couple years and make some actionable suggestions. Do what you will with them.

Today I’m going to talk about Facebook. You all have a site. Some of you have sites for your league and for your individual teams. Some of you have even created your own athlete specific pages. Nicely done.

Lets talk about using them.

Frequency
Your leagues should be posting something at least 2-3 times a week. It can be twitter or Instagram or whatever. Just make sure you’re connecting it back to your FB pages so the update goes there as well. Fans want to know more. There is a lot of time between games. Give them something to talk about at the water cooler.

News outlets (NERDerby included) depend on this information to have something to talk about.

The most important… Post after every game. Win or lose, let your fans know. If you lost by 200 points, you should be addressing that. A new fan only sees a slaughter. You need to educate them on how much you learned by playing that amazing team and how much of a big deal it was that they traveled all the way up to take you all on. If you win by a few points even, tell them why you won. What worked, what changes did you make? Did you hear the crowd? Were you inspired? Say it.

If you take NOTHING away take this… Post your scores. ESPECIALLY when you’re on the road. Nothing sucks worse than not knowing. Tweet that shit!

Content
None of you are updating your pages nearly enough. I’m as guilty as the next.
As a point of reference, find a sports franchise and follow them on social media. Not even a sport you care about. Just look at how much they are doing and what they are doing.

Post something. Player profiles, team history, practice updates, fan shout outs. Whatever you want. Just make it team related and do it with some frequency. Again… especially when you’re on the road.

Event pages
You all do a pretty good job with event pages. However… There is some room for improvement.
Publish them sooner if possible. People need to see that stuff well in advance. I also suggest paying Facebook the 5-10 bucks to promote the event. Hundreds more people will see it. Make sure your header image is only 20% text!
Included a video that explains the sport of derby in 1 minute or less. Find something with text or subtitles if possible. The best option would be for your team to make their own. New fans need all the help they can get to understand what they are seeing.

Link and tag the shit out of those event pages. Keep updating them with new things. Talk about both teams. Who’s who? Do you have rosters? Share it on the event page.

Ok, lets wrap this up. Some of you are thinking “Hey dude, we all work for a living and don’t have time for this. Our team doesn’t have the time”

You better find it. If you are on a team and think “I would rather just focus on playing” then you’re doing it wrong. You don’t have that leisure yet. If you want to play on a team you need to help it exist and help it prosper.
If you want your team to have the funds to grow, to pay for rent, to build a better program, get new uniforms or travel further then you need fans. You need your venue filled closer to capacity. In two years I’ve never seen a venue so close to capacity that I thought there didn’t need to be any more people there.

Questions? Thoughts? Think I’m stupid? Put it in the comments. Share it all.

If you are on a team and think “I would rather just focus on playing” then you’re doing it wrong. You don’t have that leisure yet. If you want to play on a team you need to help it exist and help it prosper.