People Need to Belong

People need to belong. This inherent need and desire doesn’t mean actually be possessed by someone, but rather be in relationship to and linked to other people. I got to thinking about this the other day when I was talking to someone about selling to different groups of people (we both work in the sport and entertainment industry). We happen to live in a very diverse area where there are many different nationalities and ethnicities of people, where every continent in the world is represented, including many different countries from all continents. Ok, maybe not Antarctica, but wouldn’t it be pretty cool to meet a native Antarctican? Haha – see what I did there…pretty COOL. And is Antarctican the right way to say this? Anyway, moving on.

The Psychological Aspect

The idea that people need to belong has apparently been studied by psychologists for over 100 years, which just goes to show how important and universal this feeling we all have is within us. Some of the research I’ve read has indicated that it all boils it down to the fact that belonging helps us survive. When you belonged to a group or tribe in the ancient times your likelihood of survival was much greater. It meant you had protection from enemies and help looking for food. Being with others meant you were more likely to survive. We still face many threats in our modern society now, however the shape of those threats has changed over time.

The sense of belonging is so strong that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs indicates a sense of belonging as the third most important aspect of human life right after basic needs such as food, water, clothing and safety. Yeah, the fact that people need to belong is a big deal.

Belonging from a Business Perspective

My thinking about this inherent desire to belong is very closely related to business. In short, the sport and entertainment industry gives people a place to belong. Whatever it is that you’re interested in, you can belong here. At our events, you can belong and be in community with other people who you know you have at least one thing in common. Whether that is a concert, a family show, a sporting event, a banquet, a movie screening, a comedy show, a convention…when you’re here, you belong.

I see this sense of belonging and see the joy it brings to people every time I work an event. When you see people “in their element,” they look different. They smile. They stroll confidently. They jump up and down. They hug and kiss. You can tell they’re having a great time.

Niche Audiences

This is especially true for events that serve a very niche type of audience. I’m thinking specifically of comic book conventions, homebrewing conventions, crossfit competitions, tattoo festivals, dance festivals, political events and other niche events that serve a very specific audience. When these people get together, regardless of the type of things or ideas that bring them together, they feel like they belong to something greater than themselves. You personally may not agree with or engage in these types of activities, but for the people that do, that’s their “it” factor. That’s their zone. That’s where they feel normal and excited to talk and express who they are inside.

It’s probably a little bit easier to see how sports can bring people together…most of the readers of this blog probably know this very well. I wrote about this when the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl a few years ago.

Circling Back

Now think about what your hobbies are or what you get excited about and how you feel when you connect with someone who enjoys or does the same things. For the people that like things that are “different” than say what YOU like or enjoy, they get just as excited about their stuff as you do about your thing. So when it comes time to sell tickets or promote or market an event that’s going down, get excited about it because you’re giving someone a place to belong!

The great part about the work that I do is that I get to be part of an organization that gives people that place to belong. That place to be themselves and with others like them.

We’re all human.

And that makes it all worthwhile.


Suspense in sports storytelling
Use suspense with sports related storytelling.

I’m sitting here writing this blog as I am my wife is watching the Bachelor and I must say one thing they do really well is build suspense (well actually this was last night since I’m posting this on a Tuesday). The entire show is built on suspense. They keep teasing you with little clips and sound bites of the different characters saying different things that keeps you on your toes and keeps you guessing about what the outcome might be and who is going to end up in a romantic relationship and who isn’t.

Even though some of the feelings we’ve see these people feel and hear them say this season are very obviously pointing one direction, the producers of the show have fed us enough other stimuli to make it anything but a sure thing.

Have you thought about that?

Well if you’ve ever seen a sports broadcast or pre-game TV report that’s exactly what they’re doing. So how does this play out in sports in general? Well, that argument can go one of two ways…

1 – Perhaps some teams or organizations refuse to indulge in that sort of drama and therefore don’t allow any comments. I’d be willing to be that most sports organizations spend enough of their time keeping their athletes and staff in line that they don’t need or want to to “feed the trolls.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing athletes, I’m only relating the fact that most teams probably prefer to be private and keep their matters closed to the public…doing everything they can to gain a competitive advantage. By keeping things close, these organizations are either unheard of and not often reported on or always in the news because they are so exclusive that any information that comes out is “news”.
2 – On the other hand, some teams probably have a PR staff that is constantly pushing something out, whether that be good or “nothing” at all. They’ve got daily or weekly deadlines that must be met and they’re doing everything they can to be on the front page or on the headlines that night or the next day.

Either way, regardless of where your organizations stands between these two ideas, it’s important to remember that your audience likes a good story, whatever that might be. Suspense doesn’t have to be a bad thing, you can use suspense to build anticipation about how awesome you are…who’s in the starting lineup today? What’s coach going to do when we score this time? What’s that crazy fan in row X doing to do for the Kiss Cam this time? What does the student section have planned for their team’s rivalry game during the conference championship?

No matter who you are or what you do for your sports team, remember that suspense is good storytelling which makes for good business. Don’t make something up just for the sake of filling dead space, but remember this tool used in good story telling; and sports is good story telling. There’s a beginning, a middle and an end. There’s the good guys and the bad. And they’re both trying to overcome some sort of odds in order to be the one to claim victory at the end.

Build suspense. Tell better stories. Engage your fans.

Go Forth.

Manage UP: How to Manage Your Boss

manage up, manage your boss, manage your life
Learn to manage your boss – Manage UP

You’re used to taking orders from your boss – that’s called managing down. Your boss hands down work for you to do or perform. Tasks to be completed. You take that direction as why you’re at your job – to do work. That’s what you do. That’s why you get a pay check – because you’re there to get some sort of work done and this applies to all jobs.

So what are you supposed to do if you want to move up or advance? Well, you’ve got to first take care of business. You need to be at least maintaining the standard of your employment and fulfill whatever role you are paid to perform. That’s number one.

Number two, you have to be proficient enough at number one such that you have some time and space to think about how things could be different or improved. You’ve got to get your minimum amount of work done in enough time that you have some leftover time to consider different alternatives or improvements on whatever it is that you are currently doing.

Day One

At this point (or really from your first day on the job) it is critical that you begin a conversation with your boss and start a dialogue. Ideally, you will have already started doing this from you first day of employment. If you started a new job recently, make sure that you’re checking in with your boss at least a few days a week if not daily. Give your boss an idea of how you’re doing, ask for feedback or clarification and ask how they’re doing. Find out about them too – Hey boss, what are you working on? How are things going for you? What are the challenges you are dealing with right now? What about our work is keeping you up at night?

A Person Who Has Feelings

These are examples of different things you can ask if you are just getting started in trying to establish a connection with your boss. Think about it this way – your boss is a person too. They have feelings and thoughts and concerns just like you do. They just deal with different things at work than you do and are likely in a different position in life, but either way they’re a person all the same. It’s called emotional intelligence and I’ll get into that more at another time in another blog post. For the purpose of managing up, managing your boss, you must start from a place of mutual respect and cooperation and you must share a mutual concern for making things better.

Solve Problems

In getting to know your boss and your boss to know you, you’re trying to figure out if this is a person that wants to make things better. What are the problems my boss is dealing with and what is my boss doing to fix those problems? By having a conversation with your boss about these things you’re learning what it’s like to be in their shoes. You’re learning how they think and what it’s like to be in their position.


Maybe after listening to what it is that your boss deals with you decide you DON’T want to be the boss one day. Maybe you like just punching in and out, doing your job and not having to deal with the pressure your boss has to face on a daily basis – and that’s OK! Not everyone is happy dealing with those types of responsibilities. Maybe you really like your job and can’t see yourself doing anything other than what it is that you’re doing? That’s great! You can still manage up – and this is especially important if you love your job and need something to improve your performance.


Managing up is important because it is a way to get what you need in order to improve. Managing up means convincing your boss that you have an idea that’s worth exploring and something that will make the company or the team better. Maybe you need a new desk. Maybe you need a bigger travel budget so you can get in front of more recruits. Maybe you need an assistant to take care of smaller tasks so you can focus on what’s most important. Maybe your strengths make your current job seem mundane when you really belong in another department doing a different job.


Whatever the change you want to make, if you don’t have some level of rapport with your boss, you won’t be able to manage up and get what you need in order to make things better. Your boss will manage you and inform you of what they think you’re doing well and what needs improvement (hopefully) and you should be thinking about how you can do the same with your boss. Be careful though…if you just jump right in and tell your boss everything you think they need to fix you might find yourself out on the curb with a box. Take it one step at a time and start a conversation.

Just Talk

One of the most powerful things you can do with a person is just talk. Go talk. Get them alone either at lunch or in a scheduled out meeting and tell them what’s going on with you. Ask them what’s going on with them. If you’re experience dissatisfaction at work, you have to talk to someone. If it is unsafe at work to talk about what you are experiencing, usually there is a Human Resources department that can help you with that. If you work for a smaller organization and your relationship with your boss is too unhealthy to approach them directly, go to their boss. You have a responsibility to yourself and also to your organization to fix what’s not working.


That said, only you know how things are and only you know what the culture is like. If the culture is one that persecutes people for stepping out of line and one that is built on alliances and childish games, you probably don’t want to work there anyway. But if your organization is one that values improvement and positive gains (even if that means conflicting opinions), even though it might be difficult, find someone that you can talk to about what you are dealing with. And this is only if you feel like you can’t talk to you boss. I know it can be intimidating to face your fear and speak your mind to you supervisor, but if your boss has a genuine heart, they will take the time to listen to you and address your concerns if you are willing to express those feelings.

Be a person. Be a team player. Talk it out.

Go Forth.

Celebrate Major Milestones

Celebrating major milestones is as important in sports as it is for family. Anniversaries, birthdays, graduations. Why not celebrate sell-outs, new player contract signings, major championship wins and other major achievements with your fans? Even if you don’t have some kind of formal party or celebration, use social media and interact with them around these special events. Here is what Evernote sent me recently when they hit the milestone of 100 million users:

Evernote Milestone Celebration
Evernote 100 Million Thanks Milestone Email

Evernote celebrated hitting this milestone by sending (presumably) all of the users a thank you message for using their service. They really seem to be like a company that strives to continually provide value, make a confident value statement with the full expectation that their users will WANT to pay for the add-ons they provide. By celebrating this milestone with their fans and users, they take one more step in that direction.

One example from the sports world is the post-Super Bowl victory parade. After the Seattle Seahawks 2014 victory, their victory parade through downtown Seattle drew crowds of (according to one report I heard) over 700,000 people! Now that’s a strong connection!

Celebrate with your fans and connect. Go Forth!

Thank You, Fans

Thank you. Two little words with so much meaning. So yes, thank YOU fans of Bill’s Sports Business Blog! It’s been a while and it’s great to be back. I’m not going to be posting daily like I was the last few months of last year, but I will be here more regularly and once I get a manageable schedule going I’ll let you know what that will be so you can tune in regularly.

Now, seriously, thank YOUR fans. If you follow this blog you know that I’m a big fan of email marketing and that’s exactly what the Portland Trail Blazers did when their 2014 NBA playoff run ended – they emailed their fans to say thank you. Here’s what it looked like:

PDX Trailblazers thank Fans
NBA Portland Trailblazers say Thank You Rip City Fans for 2014 season

This is a very important message, especially in a time when fans often feel like we’re just constantly asking and never giving back. Send them an email to let them know that you’re really there behind the hoop (or goal post or diamond or net or microphone or whatever) supporting and encouraging their fandom of your team.

Go Forth!