Flip the Switch

131: Developing Personal Brands to Build Bigger Communities w/ Preston McClellan

He’s considered a bit of a social media ‘OG’.  For seven years, Preston guided players on the PGA Tour to create their own brands and communities, an effort that grew the greater PGA audience from 20 million to 60 million followers in 5 years.  Now, as a co-founder of Golf Space Collective, Preston and his team guides golf properties on all things digital. 

This episode hits on why building a personal brand is important, the impact that personal brand has on team and league brands or any business and why human connection is critical to form a community over an audience.  


2:50     A Social Media OG, @Preston

4:33     Launching Memphis Athletics accounts

6:56     Building a Following on the PGA Tour

9:31     The Incentive to Building Player Brands

13:09   Growing Players’ Social Media Game

16:16   Putting Emphasis on Human Connection and Personal Brands

21:28   Frameworks for Personal Branding – Just Get Started

29:07   Audience vs. Community and Creating Brand Advocates

35:05   Connecting with Younger Fan Bases

38:24   The Netflix Impact & ‘First Swing’

44:38   Showing Human Emotion and Personality


For more information on the topics covered in this episode:

Netflix “First Swing” trailer

Justin Welsh’s LinkedIn course

Golf Space Collective 

GSC Instagram

To connect with Preston: 

Twitter | LinkedIn | Email 

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Flip the Switch

127: Finding Purpose and Building a Community w/ Gina Bianchini

When it comes to identifying your purpose or purposes, it’s all about having a clear intention for your time, your talents, your energy and your focus. What makes you happy.  But more importantly, it’s about turning your purpose or purposes into something actionable and making them matter.  After helping thousands find their purpose through her companies Ning and Mighty and her Community Design course, CEO and Founder of Mighty Networks Gina Bianchini joins the show to discuss the frameworks to finding purpose and manifesting it as a future story from her new book, Purpose: Design A Community & Change Your Life.

4:04    What is Purpose?

10:01    Key Insights Around Purpose

14:53  The Purpose 30 Challenge

21:58  The Intersection of Purpose and Community

27:00  How to Host a Community

33:46  Design and Scale Culture, Not Just Community or Content

37:15  Manifesting Your Future Story

43:31  Identifying Ideal Community Members

49:37  5 Elements of Community Design

56:59  Building Community within an Existing Audience


For more on topics covered in this episode:

To purchase Purpose: Design a Community & Change Your Life, check out Purpose.co 

Connect with Gina via email | Twitter | LinkedIn

Other books referenced

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Join the Sports Learning Online community

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Flip the Switch

124: How to Intentionally Serve Your Premium Clients w/ Lisa Holladay

In today’s episode, we’re joined by Lisa Holladay, Chief Experience Officer at Tiger 21, a high wealth membership organization.  Lisa has spent her career in service hospitality, with stops at Mercedes-Benz and Ritz-Carlton.  By viewing customers as owners, guests or members, each of these brands have created more personal relationships, resulting in more memorable experiences.  

We break down the principles that make these brands synonymous with guest experience, from their customer framework to the strategies that empower staff, encourage trust and enable transparency within the memberships.  


Show Notes

3:12    Lisa’s Career “Homes”

6:00    Guests vs. Owners vs. Members

8:09    From Rational to Emotional Purchases

9:47    What is Tiger 21?

15:18  It’s the Little Things That Matter 

20:38  Curating Trust and Transparency in Community

26:28  KPIs to Building a Successful Community

29:30  Recognizing Loyalty

34:16  Joshie the Giraffe and Empowering Staff

40:00  The Value of Kudos

41:28  Linking Experience to Brand Promise

46:35  Hot Take: Fake It ‘til You Make It


For more on topics covered in this episode:


Ritz-Carlton and Joshie the Giraffe

Connect with Lisa on LinkedIn or Instagram

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Flip the Switch

107: Harnessing the True Power of Community in Your Fanbase w/ Christina Garnett

The power of community emerges when companies embrace the directional relationship members form not just with their brand, but with other members.  In this episode, Christina Garnett, senior marketing manager for offline community and advocacy at HubSpot, joins David to talk about the magic of tapping into common passions and making your fans the hero of the story. 

Show Notes

2:21  Community vs. Audience

4:47  The Road to HubSpot

8:59  Gleaning Community Insights from Gary V

11:54  Bored Ape’s Country Club

13:59  The HubFans Community 

15:20  The Hierarchy of Community Needs

18:44  Showing Raw Emotions

24:29  Categorizing and Rewarding HubSpot Fans

27:38  HubSpot Inbound Correspondents

31:48  Turning Internal Needs into External Opportunities

35:26  Bringing Your Fans Closer

39:41  Magic of Social Listening

43:14  The Little Moments That Matter

44:14  Ask Your Fans What They Want


For more about topics covered in this episode:

HubSpot CRM Platform

HubFans: HubSpot’s Advocacy Program

Christina’s Hierarchy of Community Needs

Connect with Christina on Twitter

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Lessons from Leaders – Rhett Hobart

Are you challenging your team to create new strategies and tactics to build deeper emotional connections with your fans and drive incremental revenue? Rhett Hobart and the team at Wake Forest University have been stepping outside of the box to drive wins for their university, sponsors, fans and larger community.

Rhett has seen success throughout his career, winning back-to-back “Marketing Team of the Year” awards with Mississippi State, and he’s now brought that same mentality to Wake Forest. Rhett joined us to share his approach to driving value for his athletics organization, and it starts with putting the fans first. Here are three key takeaways from the conversation:

Find new revenue streams through co-branded products

As facilities and scholarship expenses increase, athletic departments are seeking new revenue streams outside of standard broadcast rights, sponsorship guarantees and ticket sales.  Wake Forest is one of several schools launching co-branded products including beer and coffee.  Not only are partnerships like Deacon Brew more engaging for a sponsor, they create opportunities for commissions from concession sales and royalty rates from out-of-venue sales.

Create a game day experience any college sports fan would enjoy

“Welcome to Deactown” is all about connecting with the greater Winston-Salem community, particularly those who don’t consider Wake Forest their #1 team.  Rather than emphasizing the on-field product, Rhett and his team have invested in the whole event experience, including the R&D Seven Saturdays Bar and unique in-stadium student tailgating. If your team isn’t winning, or if your alumni aren’t local, market the value of coming to an event (joy, memories, etc.) rather than the product on the field. 

Keep your ticket offers simple

We’ve seen organizations create mini ticket plans to serve their fans, but as Wake Forest realized, providing fans too many options was confusing.  Instead of football mini packages, Rhett’s team created demand through tiered pricing for single games, offering four tickets and parking that increased every 30 days.  For basketball, fans can purchase full-, half- or quarter-season flex plans and redeem vouchers at the games of their choice. There’s a fine line between meeting the needs of your fans and offering too many options. Sometimes simpler is better. 

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Flip the Switch

College Leaders | Using Partnership to Build Community w/ Rhett Hobart

This week, we sat down with Rhett Hobart, Associate AD for Fan Experience and Brand Development at Wake Forest University.  Since he joined the Demon Deacons in April 2020, Rhett and his team have launched their “Welcome to Deactown” brand campaign, introduced new in-game experiences for the greater college football fan and debuted a co-branded beer, Deacon Brew, all to create the “Best Fan Experience in North Carolina.”  In this episode, we go deep into strategies and tactics for engaging your fan base and building a true community.

Show Notes

2:31   Crafting Deacon Brew

3:19    Behind the Partnership with R&D Brewing

5:51    The Tough Conversations 

7:42     Capitalizing on Your Biggest Sampling Opportunity

11:51  New Branded Revenue Streams

16:03  Welcome to “Deactown”

20:21  The Financial Buy-in to a Branding Campaign

23:44   Takeaways from a Long-Term Branding Campaign

27:30   Creating an Experience for Any College Sports Fan

31:15   Wake’s Digital Student Engagement Strategy

34:25   Transforming the Student Tailgate Experience

38:15   Wake’s New Football and Basketball Ticket Model

42:54   From “Season Ticket Holder” to “Season Ticket Member”

45:42   The Deacon Virtual Season Ticket

53:02   Book Recommendations

54:08   “Bumping the Lamp”

57:57   Parting Advice


For more info on topics covered in this episode:

Deacon Brew

Wake Forest Football Ticket Plans 

FanMaker app

Rhett’s Book Recommendations

Excellence Wins: A No-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise by Horst Schulze 

Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service by the Disney Institute

Connect with Rhett via email or Twitter


Today’s episode was sponsored by CheckdIn.  Delivering training digitally to better equip your staff for game day.

Want more from EngageMint? Subscribe to our newsletter

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Lessons from Fanocracy: How to Turn Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans

Insights from our Flip The Switch podcast:

David Meerman Scott joined the podcast this week to talk about his studies in fandom, Fanocracy: Turning Fans Into Customers and Customers Into Fans.

His latest book, a collaboration with his daughter, Reiko, was a deep exploration of why we love the things that we love and the science behind the emotional connections we feel to those fandoms. For David, his love was the Grateful Dead. For Reiko, it was Harry Potter.  

Both fandoms are immersive experiences. Diehard Harry Potter fans read the several-hundred-page books over and over, finding new, hidden connections throughout the series each time, analyze how closely the movies capture the details, and create countless costumes, merchandise, and especially, fan theories.  

For some fandoms like Harry Potter, they emerge and grow on their own accord. The Grateful Dead actively encouraged fans to be a part of their growth strategy.  They were the original “social network” according to Scott. 

Grateful Dead fans were invited to record concerts – even provided power strips to do so – and share their tapes and experience with friends.  Merchandise created in moderate quantities could even be sold in the parking lots – if that was your only way to get in, so be it!  

So how might sports organizations foster a more immersive experience with fans? The “creator culture” is adding to fan avidity levels. We discussed this at length in our previous conversation with Zoe Scaman, who’s leading Mark Cuban Experiments. And we built on that conversation with David Meerman Scott.

In previous years, you would probably classify “diehard fans” as those with season tickets for 25 years or who show up every game with their lucky overalls, game day chains, and their faces painted. You may think of your diehard fans or customers as those who have phony coach Twitter accounts or fans who generate knockoff merchandise with fellow fans, or fans who create podcasts to discuss teams or create highlight reels for former players in the professional ranks.

Those types of fans reach audiences outside of those who follow your social accounts. Maybe you don’t give them free rein to create merchandise as the Grateful Dead did.  But could you bring in a few influencers to collaborate on new merchandise and use them as the models for the finished products?  Could you create video content that fans get to release?

Relinquishing some of the control of your brand may be daunting. But when you have the opportunity to reach a wider audience than those currently following your channels or subscribing to your emails, is the risk worth the reward?  

It was for the Grateful Dead. It brought in fans like Scott who have been to 75 shows and keep going back for more.

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Tip of the Day

Nike’s Nothing but Gold App

Nike released a landing page and Instagram account for Nothing but Gold, a social commerce app targeting Gen Z women. The website is in beta, but sounds like the app will combine TikTok-like features, community aspects and sales channels. Check out this Front Office Sports article for more details.  

Here are three lessons from Nike’s Nothing but Gold decision applicable to your athletic department:

  1. Control your community – Nike has heavily focused on building their DTC channels. The biggest example was the global sportswear company announcing it would no longer sell through Amazon. By building applications, Nike is creating its own community of consumers while collecting real-time behavioral feedback that can be turned into new products. Few brands have as deeply loyal customers as Nike but College Athletics is one of them. Yet, most schools we’ve spoken with use their existing mobile app as an information hub rather than a platform to engage their fans. If that’s your department, give the Enterprise Solutions team a call – we’ve helped multiple schools think through their digital strategy when it comes to mobile apps 
  1. Personalized experiences are key – My favorite part of Nike’s Nothing but Gold app? The fact the app targets a specific customer segment. Nike clearly understands that with its massive customer base, different demographics have different purchasing habits. The strategy to sell to millennial male NBA fans needs to be differentiated from the strategy to sell to Gen Z women. As an athletic department, your fans want personalized experiences. Having separate apps for different fan segments may be unrealistic but are you finding successful ways to segment and target different fan groups with personalized experiences? If not, what technologies do you need to be successful? 
  1. Fan engagement & commerce are becoming intertwined – Social commerce is the term commonly used. Combining a social element (Nothing but Gold’s TikTok-like features) with a sales channel helps maximize revenue. If you already own someone’s attention, it’s much easier to sell to them. If you aren’t embracing social commerce, you’re missing out on opportunities for customized merchandise drops or unique experience sales.  

If you enjoyed the above tip of the day, subscribe to EngageMint’s Tic-Tacx newsletter for similar weekly insights. 

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Future of Sports
Chatting Sports Tech

Edition #2 – Power of Community

Welcome back to your regularly scheduled Chatting SportsTech with Charles programming. This edition will go deep on The Power of Community in Sports. Unlike Edition 1.5 – I’ll avoid confusion and use integers only going forward – this format will more closely follow Edition 1. I’m going to start at the macro level to understand why an increased emphasis is being placed on building digital communities, talk about applications in the sports world including how to use communities to drive revenue growth and end with a deeper discussion of some emerging sports tech companies. 

Jump to the last section if you’re only interested in reading about the sports tech companies.

Let’s dive in…

Why talk about community building now? Hasn’t the human race been forming communities since the dawn of time?

You aren’t wrong about that last point. What has changed though is the vast library of available tools and technology allowing community formation previously constrained by physical geography. 

What really drove me down this rabbit hole was this Andreesen Horowitz article. For those of you unaware, Andreesen Horowitz is one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious VC funds with ambitions to become a major force in media.*  The author uses the terminology ‘Social+’ to describe companies that build a social experience around a single category, like music or gaming. This graphic gives examples of the categories moving to social:

While I disagree with Peloton’s classification (there is a strong social component) and recognize the author has an agenda to promote Andreesen Horowitz portfolio companies, I agree with the inherent benefits to a social+ company. A social+ company ensures faster feedback loops and helps drive customer retention, creating a defensible moat.

Before proceeding, it’s important to highlight the large difference between an audience and a community. You have an audience if you’re lecturing from your soapbox or  pushing notifications to a group of followers. That’s why Andreesen considers ESPN a ‘non-social’ company. You have a community when there’s consistent interaction not just between you and your followers, but between members of that follower group. Humans are social beings; we crave the interaction that keeps us coming back.

That makes a lot of sense. Tell me more how this all fits in with the world of sports. 

In my opinion, the sense of community with sports is the number one reason why people invest so much of their time and effort following a team, players and / or a league. It’s why grown adults wear the jerseys of much younger adults to display their loyalty to a team. It’s how two complete strangers can immediately bond by sharing experiences from a common fanhood. It’s why I spent $2,000+ as a recent college graduate to watch Notre Dame battle Alabama live at the 2013 BCS Title Game (let’s not rehash what happened during that game).

The lack of a community is what has made 2020 and beyond so challenging. The pandemic stripped us of all the joys of serendipitous gatherings at a bar for the big game. Without the traditional gameday experience, fans are missing that emotional attachment to a team. In most places, television is all we have, since fans aren’t allowed in stadiums or arenas. 

With the rise of mobile, the ‘second screen’ experience has been the natural evolution for fans feeling connected to a larger population while watching the game from home**. Essentially, viewers have sports on television while simultaneously playing on their phone (or computer). I’ve heard Twitter, my platform of choice, described as the World’s Greatest Sports Bar for its ability to facilitate interaction between people from across the globe as it relates to live sports contests. 

As technology has advanced and the pandemic introduced barriers to in-person interaction, social watch party technology has emerged as the next frontier. The rapid rise of video game streaming on Twitch and other free platforms has shown a tremendous appetite for social viewing. Sports had been slower to evolve given the complications of media rights ownership. However, multiple new companies are tackling social watching in the sports space to replicate the community aspect. I’ll touch on some of the vendors in the sports tech section below.  

So I understand the trends but how does building a community help a sports organization generate more revenue? 

The Harvard Business Review published a good article titled, “Want More Loyal Customers? Offer a Community, Not Rewards.” My favorite line: “In the modern aspiration economy, people develop true brand affinity only when it gives them a sense of community.”

This concept links directly to the pareto principle pareto principle, which says the 20% of your most loyal customers contribute 80% of your company’s revenue. Customers who have true brand loyalty are usually ingrained in that company’s community. By identifying those top 20% loyal customers, you can concentrate marketing efforts on this segment to increase sales of tickets, merchandise, digital products, etc. 

Sports organizations face a significant problem though. For the longest time, community building was outsourced to the existing social media platforms. For example, Facebook fan groups made sense since people already spent a large portion of their time on Facebook. But Facebook was the sole beneficiary of these allegiances, improving their individual consumer profiles and optimizing their advertising algorithms. Meanwhile, sports organizations received no visibility into who their fans really were, passing up valuable data and sacrificing the ability to drive better conversion rates. The good news is that organizations are quickly recognizing the value of first party data, while more sports tech companies are popping up with solutions to address this data capture. 

That’s a great segue. Give me some sports tech companies who are set up to thrive.

I’ll explore two different segments: 1) Capturing first party data and 2) Watch party technologies. 

Let’s start with sports tech companies focused on building or mining communities to capture first party data. There’s been a significant shift over the past decade from team-centric news apps to a more robust gameday app experience complete with mobile ticketing, mobile ordering, social media and other gamification integrations. Professional teams and leagues have led the charge – see YinzCam as the official partner of the NFL – and I expect colleges to start following the trend (shameless plug – we’re helping several D1 institutions evaluate options. If you’re reading this and are in the market to revamp your digital strategy, feel free to get in touch with EngageMint Partners. The app providers who will win in the  long term understand the value of backend data analytics and the ability to segment and / or personalize fan experiences within the app. 

TopFan is a company whose value proposition revolves around the premise that customer data is organizational gold. A white-label mobile platform allowing organizations or influencers to build direct relationships with fans, TopFan has created a mobile community for the Denver Broncos separate from their gameday app. With TopFan, organizations or influencers have six-figure plus revenue upside by selling subscriptions to exclusive content, merchandise using exclusive drops and sponsorship inventory throughout. Initial results have more than doubled industry benchmarks, with average customer session length on the app exceeding 15 minutes (vs. 6 minutes for comparison).

Then there are companies like Pico that take a different approach to resolving an organization’s lack of first party data. Pico uses gamification and other digital activations across existing social media platforms to identify fans and collect data that can then be migrated to an organization’s CRM. Using Pico’s tools, an organization can have much lower customer acquisition costs versus other methods like Facebook ads while creating new sales channels for tickets and merchandise.

Pivoting to watch party technologies, companies that have emerged include Bleachr, Sceenic, Hot Mic and Maestro. All four have different value propositions and target customers: 

  • Bleachr introduced a new CrowdView Live platform several months back aimed at providing a more interactive watch party. Sports organizations choose events to host through the platform and invite fans to share the experience. 
  • Hot Mic is aiming to be the Twitch for Live Sports. Brands or sports organizations can tap a host to create and facilitate a new watch party, while all the viewers can watch a game altogether.
  • Maestro offers a white-label turnkey platform to clients for interactive video channels, fan-driven draft parties and virtual tailgates. Fans are able to create breakout rooms and watch together. 
  • Sceenic targets more media companies and leagues but like Maestro, provides a white-label software solution for friends and family to watch programming together. 

I fully expect watch party technology to continuously evolve given that most of these products emerged as a Covid response. There’s a possibility that AR / VR type technologies become the dominant social watch technology in the future, but in the meantime, social watch parties represent a powerful tool for potential sponsorship activation. The organizations able to use the tools most creatively (i.e., having a popular analyst or influencer host) can generate significant fan interest and truly enhance loyalty within their existing communities.

Let’s wrap there since you’ve probably had enough sports tech talk to last the week. 

Until next time,

– Charles

Next week, I’ll release an analysis of the recently launched Fan Controlled Football League, since a lot of the league’s strategy fits in with this Building a Community theme. Think of that as a mini-edition. The next full edition in two weeks will explore the Future of Ticketing.


*Investment platforms creating their own media outlets is another major trend: Cutting out the middlemen and controlling your own narrative. I’ll explore this as part of a larger DTC edition in the future.

**We’ll dive into some of the metrics behind second screen experience and the overall trend in more detail in a later edition.

Disclaimer – EngageMint Partners does not have existing financial relationships with any of the sports tech companies discussed. However, as part of our day to day, we have frequent conversations with companies to better understand their business models on behalf of our clients. If you’re interested in further insights on specific companies and sectors, do not hesitate to reach out. 

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