For Brands, It’s About Aligning with Passion

 In Blog, Brands

For the better part of a century, eyeballs were the only thing that mattered. Advertisers prepared the perfect pitch for their product or service hoping that when it was their turn to take the stage in front of a big crowd, people would be paying attention and they would see the value in what they had to offer.

Then the media tsunami hit; It forever washed away the one thing brands couldn’t afford to lose: Our attention span.

There are various reports of how many marketing messages we are exposed to on a daily basis, but it is safe to say that it is thousands. And because of this constant brand bombardment, we’ve begun to tune it out. The average attention span for a human has shrunk to eight seconds, one second less than a goldfish.

There are many ways for brands to stand out from all of the rest. Some use creativity, humor, emotional appeal or even publicity stunts. These delivery methods are clever and might just outlast the eight second barrier, but they are passive. They’re simply not attached to something the consumer cares about.

Enter passion-based marketing.

The digital explosion that shrunk our attention spans has also had an inverse effect on our connection with the things we feel most passionate about. And that presents a HUGE opportunity for brands.

Let me explain.

As a child, I was really into BMX biking. I probably spent no less than six hours a day on my bike. I craved any type of info I could get my hands on that would cover the latest tricks, athletes, gear and events. I would pedal my bike fast and furiously each month to my local drugstore to buy the newest copy of BMX Plus! magazine. I’d spend hours reading it over and over, wishing I had more content just like it.

But it was 1987 and I was about 20 years too early.

A BMX fanatic today has access to far more content they could even consume in their entire lifetime. From the X-Games, to thousands of hours of BMX footage on YouTube, to connecting directly with professional BMX athletes on Twitter – the number of channels to feed this specific passion are rich and plentiful. No matter what your passion is, digital media’s expansion into every niche has enabled you to eat, sleep and breathe that thing that means the most to you.

Brands, listen up. This is where it gets good. You can be a part of this.

With the various forms of digital media and social media and a little creativity, you can align your brand with your consumer’s passion. If you can be part of what your consumers care about, not just near it, you’ve discovered the Holy Grail on how to reach the heart of your target market.

There are plenty of brands that are doing this today. I’ve highlighted a few below that I feel are some of the best executions out there.

Red Bull

Each time I watch the video above, I get goosebumps and when a brand delivers content capable of doing that, you know they are on to something. James O’Brien from Mashable wrote an outstanding article about How Red Bull takes Content Marketing to the Extreme. Red Bull focused on the passion of extreme sports itself rather than the audience of extreme sports.

“The idea central to content marketing is that a brand must give something valuable to get something valuable in return. Instead of the commercial, be the show. Instead of the banner ad, be the feature story. The value returned is often that people associate good things with — and return to engage with — the brand.” James O’Brien – Mashable

Red Bull is an extreme example, but I felt it was a good case study to show the paradigm shift as it applies to passion-based marketing.



Ford has been a long-time sponsor of American Idol, one of the biggest cultural phenomenons over the last decade. In fact, American Idol itself can be viewed as A Lesson in Branding for others – a great article by Paul Jankowski in Forbes.

“Idol is a perfect example of an integrated brand platform that’s based on building strong emotional connections with its audience.”
Paul Jankowski – Forbes

What I love about Ford’s sponsorship is they became part of the show’s content, first through their music videos featuring the contestants and last season with their Fiesta Movement Idol Missions. Not only did it feature the show’s contestants alongside Ford vehicles, but it also provided viewers a chance to win, in this case the two vehicles that they helped design alongside famous artist Tristan Eaton. The alignment with the fans’ passion – the show and the contestants – helped not only make their segment DVR-proof, but also something fans were looking forward to on a weekly basis.

Ford and Red Bull are just two examples of how brands can align with customers’ passions and come out ahead. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about what I perceive as the purest passion that advertisers can integrate with: High School Sports.

High school sports hold a special place in nearly everyone’s heart. Whether it’s their high school, their children’s high school or their local community high school – there is a strong connection. It’s something they are a part of as much as it is a part of them. It gives brands the opportunity to be part of a passion that is very pure and at the most local level that hits home with everyone involved. When a brand speaks in this space and it’s aligned with the school spirit that radiates from the high school sports crowd, it’s more likely that not only will the message be received, but it will be remembered and acted upon. According to a 2013 Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR study, 96% of individuals will have a more positive image of a company when it supports consumer social responsibility issues, such as high school sports.

If you are a brand navigating through through your marketing strategy, start by asking yourself this question: Is my brand’s marketing passion-based or passive-based?


About the Author:

Jeff Lillibridge has helped lead Home Team Marketing’s digital and marketing strategies since April of 2013. He also leads the charge on integrating digital, mobile and social media into client campaigns at high schools across the country.