Build brand credibility by powering fandom

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The internet is driven by culture, not commerce. This is good news if you’re working with a brand that makes entertainment products – your brand’s appeal and role is determined by your product. However, for many other brands there is still great value to be found in leveraging fandom. There are three roles for brands on the periphery of the entertainment world to build credibility, consideration and preference.

Fans are gold dust. When it comes to the object of their fandom – their team, their idol, their obsession – they spend more and have greater influence over their peers than regular consumers. Most importantly, they are also more likely to be warm towards brands that facilitate great fan experiences, even if that brand seems peripheral to the object of fandom.

Content marketing is the perfect vehicle for a fandom-first approach. ‘Ad-mageddon’ might be a bit strong, but digital advertising has certainly had a rocky ride in recent years. Ad blocking is becoming ever more widely adopted, Verizon and Walmart pulled ads from Google’s video-sharing platform after yet another story about brand proximity to extremist content and big media owners are yet to offer a solution to disparate and obscure measurement standards. Steps are being taken on all fronts, but advertising has suffered.

Lucky for us then that, in the words of Howard Gossage, “people don’t read advertising - they read what interests them, and sometimes that’s advertising”. Content marketing allows us to take a different approach to the disruptive broadcast model of advertising. Rather than repeatedly trumpeting our own claims, in content we have an opportunity to persuade through participation; if we’re able to adopt a fandom-first approach, so much the better.

We need to remove the guesswork by mapping customer’s cultural data to create a thumbprint of all the cultural niches they inhabit. That then allows us to identify those niches your brands has a right to play in and to develop one (or more) of three roles for your brand as active participants within those cultures and conversations.


Contribute to the narrative around the cultural events your customers care about. You can be a cheerleader, or even a careful critic as long as you’re fan-centric. The trick is to develop a credible voice of authority on an area of fandom relevant to your brand, product or service.

Some recent work from ŠKODA is the perfect example. Having begun life as a bicycle manufacturer, ŠKODA have taken their sponsorship of the Tour de France to the next level by using social media to own the unusual position of being a car brand that is on the side of the cyclist. Social content covers a number of competitive cycling events, including Ride London, Tour of Britain and of course Le Tour.


In this role, brands build credibility by nurturing and enriching fandom, helping to cultivate a deeper passion for entertainment. This role drives a strong sense of utility around your brand.

Virgin Media recently took football fans behind the closed doors of a Premier League club by sharing an exclusive look of Southampton FC’s state-of-the-art Staplewood training facility. Taking advantage of partnerships to create exclusive and expert fan content is a powerful way of becoming a destination brand for superfans. The objective should be to offer the most compelling answers to the most commonly asked questions.


By funding or sponsoring the creation of your customers’ favourite cultural products, brands can drive consideration and preference within that niche. This is can be a super-smart and effective strategy when brands don’t have enough innate credibility to contribute.

Take Absolut Vodka, who have been a patron of the arts since Andy Warhol designed the famous Absolut Warhol ad in 1986. The brand has continued to commission work from artists such as Keith Haring, Nam June Paik, Rosemarie Trockel, Ed Ruscha, Annie Leibovitz, Damien Hirst, and Thea Djordjadze. Current activities include giving young designers a platform via sponsorship of the New Designers exhibition and the yearly Absolut Art Awards.

This article originally appeared in The Drum Network Entertainment special

Ronak Mokhtassi, strategist, RAPP UK

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