When the Bandwagon Fans Fall Off

Living in the US, the NFL is easily one of the most recognizable brands we come into contact with on a daily basis. More specifically, living in North Carolina, we are fully immersed in the mania and hype of “Panther Nation.”


(Courtesy of @IGpanthernation via Twitter)

The Carolina Panthers, like other franchises, maintain a prominent and consistent brand image among their target demographics. There are numerous ways that an organization of this magnitude must communicate with its audience in order to stand out among the many notable NFL “power franchises.” The typology, or types of messages that an organization delivers, must be tailored to the situation, the environment, and the audience that they are trying to reach.

The 2015 NFL season is one that Panthers fans will not soon forget. The team’s star quarterback, Cam Newton, and his fellow teammates rose in popularity as they went on a 15 game winning streak. The team was frequently seen unapologetically posing for mid-game photo-ops, while “dabbing” on their competition.


(Photo: Jeremy Brevard, USA TODAY Sports)

Cam Newton was awarded the coveted title of league MVP and the team even made an appearance in the Super Bowl. I think it’s safe to say that a season like that makes the marketing team’s job quite easy. First of all, the media delivers a great deal of positive, unplanned press for a consistently victorious team. There was even hype created about “the perfect season” before it even happened!

(Joseph Person, The Charlotte Observer)

They were heavily represented by the media in a positive manner. The message was either about another Panthers victory, or something equally as amazing like Cam throwing his insane number of touchdown balls to kids in the stands.


Secondly, football fans are obviously more likely to root for a team that delivers wins. Panthers fans began to come out of the woodwork to see what “Super Cam” or “Luuuuuke” would do at each game. Advertising and social media material was at no shortage due to their strongly positive image in the media, as well as their ever growing, ever enthusiastic fan base.

The marketing and branding techniques of the organization seemed to shift in a new direction after the crushing Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos. The social media updates, advertising, and media coverage transitioned to a much more humble, appreciative tone. The constant stream of “Keep Pounding” updates quickly transformed into a message of “We will work harder” and “next year is our year.”

Unfortunately for the Panthers, the 2016 season has certainly not been their year. So far the team’s record is 1 win and 5 losses. Even worse, their MVP sustained a concussion along with several other key players being placed on injured reserve. This has placed the organization at the bottom of the NFC South Conference. Their current struggle has caused a shift in the typology of the organization’s communication methods. Instead of relying on positive media attention and bandwagon fans, the focus has been more on philanthropy, hard work, and the “ride or die” fan base. Without the epic victories and record breaking plays to broadcast, the Panthers are forced to look for content that comes from within its organizational culture and soul. Recent communication from the Panthers places a larger impact on team motivation and hope for the future:


While other messages highlight the organization’s charitable efforts and donations.


A small sigh of temporary relief likely comes from the generally supportive response the Panthers have received from their true fans:


Although the NFL audience may be harsh and unforgiving at times most fans stay loyal to their favorite team, no matter how stormy the weather. The determination and optimism found within the typology of the Panther’s messages will likely resonate with true fans and keep them coming back for more!


(Jeff Siner, The Charlotte Observer)


Are you a Panthers fan? If so, are these communication strategies keeping you hopeful for your team, or are you fed up and just ready to see some wins? Let us know what you think!


-“PR and IMC: The Benefits of Integration” Public Relations Quarterly, Fall, 1994, 38-44

14 thoughts on “When the Bandwagon Fans Fall Off

  1. This is a really interesting post. My family has had season tickets to panthers games for the last 9 years, so we have been through some really fun, and some really really tough times! I think the best part about being a true fan of a team is that when you go through a down year or several years, it makes the year you are winning that much more enjoyable. You are emotionally invested in the team and its success/failures so as a fan, you are there as a support system when they are losing and you are also there as the energized fan base they deserve when they are winning. I follow all the panthers accounts on social media and their posts this year have been drastically different compared to last year. Their posts consist of portraying to its viewers that the panthers are “tough” and are going to come out of this situation stronger and better. With that said, I think their social media posts are speaking directly to the “ride or die” fan base instead of the band wagon fans. Because the marketing team knows that they do not need to waste their time on the band wagon fans because they are just that, band wagoners. They will come back regardless once the team starts winning. So, the job of the marketing team now is to keep ride or die fans from losing hope or giving up on the season and instead encouraging them to rally behind their team and help cheer them out of this poor season they are currently having.

  2. This post put into words what my frustrations have been about his campaign. The question from many groups–women, minorities, etc.–is: do we have a place in Trump’s America? Personally, I don’t think any presidential candidate who says he “grabs ’em by the pu**y” understands what it takes to ‘make America great again.’ (Whatever that means.) Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hi IMC Class!
    I am not a Panthers fan, but I chose your post because it is something that I am passionate about. Last semester I would go nuts over all these Panthers “fans” that would always talk crap, but never knew what they were talking about and didn’t care about the Panthers until they started winning. Bandwagon fans are just a pet peeve of mine because they usually are the ones that talk the most crap, especially to us Patriots fans. The Patriots also have their fair share of bandwagon fans who only know Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.
    Although I am not a Panthers fan I feel as though they have good communication strategies. Going with the “moving forward approach” is positive and encouraging towards their fans. Their philanthropy approach is also positive and makes their fans love them more.
    Overall, I really enjoyed your post. I like how you asked questions at the end to start communication between your readers and you. I also liked your use of photos.

  4. Love this. There’s a serious learning curve for teams in smaller markets that have to deal with up and downs of fair weather fans. I work in a sports bar and even we had to change our marketing to deal with the lack of interest in a home team that’s 1-5. Same can be seen in the states apathy for it’s hockey team. Sure they won the cup in 2006 but its hard to keep up good spirits when your team’s spent every spring golfing since 2009. Good news is that there’s so many fans of other teams in this area their attendance has suffered too bad.

  5. I have noticed that my favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers have also shifted their media portrayal after losing 2 consecutive games. The optimism and support of fans really help drive any team toward a successful season. It’s interesting to see just how well professional teams handle any negative things that are happening with their team. I do appreciate true Panthers fans that have optimism and respect for their team and for one another. That is what professional football fans should embody .

  6. This is perfect. I like how you were able to find positive news from the Panthers despite the awful season they are having right now. I as I like to say never get you hopes up to high for the panthers cause they are just going to so the opposite from what you expect them to do. But at least they are able to find something that keeps the fans coming back each game knowing they do more than just go out there and “win games”

  7. I’ve never been a huge Panthers fan, but being a Charlotte native I can’t help but feel for them. We all want to see our hometown heroes succeed. It’s interesting how social media for the Panthers shifts their attention to positive things like charity work despite their loss streak. Great post!

  8. I couldn’t agree anymore with this post! When it comes to sports, one thing i cannot stand more is a BANDWAGON fan. Unfortunately living in North Carolina, i had to deal with one too many of them last year. I would see Facebook posts of people who hated football, but then had Panthers jerseys on rooting. I couldn’t be any happier that the panthers are 1-5 this season. This was a great read and i plan to share it with a few close friends!

  9. The Panthers last season were a perfect example of a bandwagon team. There were lots of fans that were on the anti-Panthers bandwagon, who hated his flamboyant attitude and felt that he was “disrespecting the game.” Now that they’re losing games, fewer and fewer people are talking about them. At the end of last year you couldn’t walk down chancellor’s without seeing Panthers gear, but now you hardly see any gear on game day.

  10. Marketing a winning team is definitely easier. Everyone is excited about their favorite team winning and is more likely to be interested in advertisements or social media that picture these athletes in the lime light. When a team starts to struggle though, their brand becomes harder to push and companies must find different ways to keep people interested and devoted. While I am a Panthers fan myself, I have lost some interest now that the team isn’t doing as well. This just goes to show the impact being in the spotlight can have on a brand that seeks to further reach its consumers.

  11. After being a Panther fan for many years and buying into their new brand image was easy when winning came along with it. Unfortunately this year is not the same case. I think going back to hard work and “keep pounding” ideals that brought them the success they were having last year is a good idea. Sometimes rebranding is what a company needs.

  12. It’s unfortunate that the 2016 season has started off the way it has, especially after making it to the super bowl last year. However, it shows the true character of the team how they respond to their losses. So many people were coming out of the woodwork as diehard Panther fans this past season, but I haven’t heard hardly anything out of those people during this season.

  13. I think I speak for every die hard Panthers fan when I say that this season has been a let down to the amazing performance they had last season. But it would not be the NFL if only one team was the champion every single year. There will always be the fan that jumps from good team to good team it human nature to be number one.

  14. The ups and downs of the panther’s seasons over the years since coming to NC have remained consistent it seems. I felt at times that they were a little over the top with their antics and some of the aggressive marketing. I enjoyed watching them go 15-0 but after they lost the second Super Bowl loss, I think the re-branding was a wise move. It’s impossible to not look a little foolish after so much bandwagon hype and showboating only to lose another championship game. I’ve been a panthers fan for years but I like the new humble approach.

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