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A Titan of a Fan

How PR teams can recognize brand superfans

Published on April 25, 2020, at 1:42 p.m.
by Dylan Lanas

Courtesy of @Titans on Twitter

So, you’re a fan. No, not the thing that blows air, but a person whose loyalty to a brand runs deep. Do you consider yourself a superfan?

A 2018 Cision article noted the powerful benefits of superfans as influencers who proudly display their devotion to their favorite companies and products.

When it comes to sports, superfans don’t just spend their time and money on their favorite team — they arguably become members of the team themselves.

I consider myself an above-average Tennessee Titans fan — and my dad even more so (he owns a Randy Moss Titans jersey, of all things). My dad has been a season ticket holder since the mid-2000s, and my family has passionately followed the team through very dark times.

But delve into the realm of Titans fans, and you’ll come upon one name hoisted above the rest: Matt Neely.

Neely created videos that were out of this world, was targeted by jealous fanbases and served as Titans fans’ irreverent but endearing online leader.

Neely passed away on Oct. 10, 2019, in the midst of football season. Tributes for Neely poured in, from a player-run podcast he worked on to the many members of the Titans subreddit.

The Titans organization itself has been active in engaging with the legacy Neely left behind.

Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk tweeted out an official message of grievance from the organization the day after Neely’s death. As noted by The Tennessean, Strunk had only ever issued such statements on Twitter four times before her commemoration of Neely.

Courtesy of @Titans on Twitter

The team also invited Neely’s family to serve as the honorary 12th Titan for a game later that same season.

Since Neely’s passing, the Titans’ social media messaging has consistently referenced the late superfan by using phrases such as “For the Boy” and a frog emoji alluding to one of Neely’s favorite memes.

“I think Matt’s biggest talent was getting all of us through the tough losses/seasons with his humor,” Nate Bain, Titans social media manager, wrote during an April 2020 “ask me anything” Reddit thread.

As defined by PRSA, a core element of public relations is the creation of relationships that benefit both the organization and its audiences. The Tennessee Titans’ continued efforts to recognize a dedicated superfan is one example of a brand finding ways to involve its audience in meaningful ways.

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