Seed v. lawn part 2: Boston, storytelling and the Seahawks

In Boston earlier this spring (post marathon pride/pre Brady shame) two colleagues and I presented at the Northeast regional SMPS | Uber Conference. The presentation expands on the above words of marketing (and storytelling) wisdom. The title, Know Your Hero: 5 Steps to Compelling Storytelling, alludes to one of the key ideas:

Your audience is the hero of the story, not you.

Since I’m from the Northwest and my co-presenter is from the Northeast and despises football (country club sports only) he objected to my desire to bring up the Seahawks in the presentation. “OK fine,” I said during a run-through the night before. “I’ll drop it.”

And then I snuck it in anyway, because when a Seahawk is facing a roomful of Patriots, it’s her duty to claim allegiance, and if possible, use the team to make a point that secretly leads, in retrospect, to the morally superior position.

“Brad,” I said, when he paused in a discussion about audience engagement, “I think I can help explain what you’re talking about here.” And then I repeated the words on a poster I’d seen shortly after the Seahawk’s traumatic Super Bowl loss:

You don’t love a team for the titles; you don’t love a team for the trophies. You love a team because somewhere in there, you’ve found yourself.

This explains why fans love their team, even after the inevitable consequence of a tragically misguided last-second play (or, say, a cheating scandal). People become fans when they identify with the players and plot. Fans become part of their team’s narrative, swept along in the story’s twists and turns with all the emotions that go with them— as baffling as those feelings may be to outsiders. (It’s only a game!)

If you want fans, give people a way to identify with you, to insert themselves into your story. Make them the hero, not you.

And not you either, Tom Brady.