Terrible Towels to Game Day Shakers: Fans Build Brands
Published on October 12, 2021, at 8:25 p.m.
by Tory Elliott.
From the Terrible Towel to crimson and white shakers, football fans have used merchandise to support their favorite teams for years. Nothing unites a fan base more than memorabilia that they can pass down through generations. These traditions are some of the most important accessories a supporter can bring to a game.
College football and NFL teams feature mascots and team colors, but their fans and the free exposure that comes with having these supporters at the games are what create the teams’ brands. Inside and outside the stadium, fans will represent their team, and you can tell who they support from a mile away.
What makes these football franchises so special to fans are the traditions behind their memorabilia. For example, fans of The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for waving the Terrible Towel during games. This towel and the story behind it bring fans together every Sunday to support their beloved team. Supporters have even gone as far as wrapping their newborns in the Terrible Towel.
The Green Bay Packers’ fans wear a block of cheese on their heads [with no shame] to cheer on their team, even when they are losing. The Cheesehead — what was once a derogatory term for those who live in Wisconsin — is now their most valued hat, or head of cheese. Now it is a tradition, with fans believing the Cheesehead brings the Packers luck on the field.
College football has its own traditions as well. The University of Alabama has boxes of shakers set up inside Bryant-Denny Stadium for supporters to shake and yell “Roll Tide” any chance they get. Fans of Mississippi State, known for its “Hail State” cheer, flood Davis Wade Stadium every Saturday during football season with cowbell-ringing. The cowbells are definitely used to their advantage, as fans ringing them are often the loudest. The Southeastern Conference even tried to outlaw the cowbells, but even that couldn’t stop Bulldog fans from bringing them.
All of these examples show that memorabilia — even something as trivial as a shaker — unites a franchise with its fans. Even though other sports use merchandise to promote their brands, football is arguably the most well-known.
Merchandise for fans is like a PR package for everyone, showcasing traditions to be passed on to others. Fans promote it, and then other fans catch on, and soon enough everyone wants a shaker or Terrible Towel to cheer on their team.