Lessons from Leaders – Shawn McIntosh

In our latest podcast, David sits down with Shawn McIntosh, Charlotte FC’s Chief Fan Officer.  If you’re thinking, “What is a Chief Fan Officer?” we had the exact same question and invited Shawn on to discuss the vision and purpose for this first-of-its-kind, C-suite role.  Shawn is “not a cheerleader” or a “paid fan of the club,” but an executive that provides an ear for the fans to share their goals, desires and issues with the organization and to have those interests represented in all meetings and business decisions made by the club.  

Here are three strategies to building relationships with supporters and community leaders and creating a one-of-a-kind matchday:

Look beyond your competitors for inspiration – (23:05)

As the newest MLS team, joining the league in 2022, Charlotte FC is cultivating a matchday experience that is unique and special to its city and fanbase.  To create that experience, Shawn challenged the supporters to look beyond the MLS for inspiration.  “Soccer is so unique because it is so fan-driven, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look to really great NHL and NBA teams for things that connect and land well in terms of fans.”  Shawn even attended a Vegas Golden Knights hockey game with a supporter to get real-time feedback on in-game elements. From stunt card choreography to a DJ, Shawn and the supporters are pulling best-in-class elements from leagues around the world to create an experience that will be authentic to Charlotte.

Trust supporters with behind-the-scenes conversations – (38:48)

Often, organizations are hesitant to share information with fans, due to uncertainty that ideas can be executed or concern that details will end up on message boards.  While Shawn acknowledged information is occasionally held back, forging a deep connection with groups like your supporters can be equated to marriage.  It starts with transparency and making fans know that the relationship with your organization is special. Once that mutual trust is established, you can share confidential or non-public information and solicit feedback throughout the process. More than just asking fans yay or nay, you can have true dialogue to ensure decisions benefit the organization and the fans.  

Balance fan desires with business operations – (10:12)

Keeping fans’ needs and desires top of mind when making decisions is crucial, but there may be operational challenges to meeting them.  One of the reasons Shawn was selected as Chief Fan Officer was his past experience in other fan-facing roles.  Prior to joining Charlotte FC, he was the Chief Revenue Officer for the Norfolk Admirals and Director of Ticket Sales for the Las Vegas Aces and Houston Dynamo.  To replicate the Chief Fan Officer role in your organization, consider candidates with an understanding of marketing campaigns, backend ticket operations, video production, etc. that can offer alternatives if/when roadblocks arise that might better serve your fans.

To hear more about how Shawn gathers insights from fans and infuses the fan perspective across the organization, click here for the full conversation.  

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