The Florida State Seminoles (FSU), my alma mater, had a perfect football season. They carried that record into the BCS National Championship game in Pasadena in January against the Auburn Tigers. FSU had an entire 2013 season of dominating teams, while Auburn became the improbable “Team of Destiny,” coming off of only a three-win season in 2012.
The first time FSU won a National Championship was in 2003, and I was a student, having graduated with then-Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward. As a penniless college student, I always sold my tickets for beer money back in those days. As I get older, I have no time for many things, including keeping up with all the sports that interest me. So I pick one… college football. Ninety-eight percent of all college players will never see the pros. They do it for the love of the game, and that passion permeates all who follow the sport.
Jan. 6, 2014. From the 21-3 early Auburn lead, the game appeared to be a blowout. But we (fans) believed. We screamed. The Tomahawk Chop swept the stadium. And when the final trick play of the game from Auburn came to an end, well short of the end zone, the clock ran out. FSU had just overcome the biggest deficit ever in a National Championship game. The scoreboard read 34-31, and my heart had literally stopped several times during those grueling three hours.
“We did it,” I thought. “We really did it.” I sat back in my seat, and looked around. Question: Who is “we?”
The next morning, I made my way to the hotel lobby, head throbbing, desperate for a cup of coffee. Both Auburn and FSU fans peppered the lobby. Conversations were everywhere including the following:
• When I went to school there …
• Remember when Terry Bowden coached Auburn?
• Bobby Bowden was a class act.
• Can you believe the play when …
• How did Bama lose twice?
• Is Michigan State that good? (A: Ask Notre Dame)
Everyone was enjoying the banter rehashing the year, the coaches, the bowl games, etc. At that moment, they (we) belonged. We belonged to our weird, hyper-obsessed group of football fans. College football fans, that is.
Everyone at that game paid a pretty penny to be there. We juggled our schedules, tabled other projects, and most of us got a permission slip from our spouse. Why? Why do we do that? Why travel across the country for something that seems so meaningless to others? Because we (humans) want to belong, and we want to remember.
Everyone knows the Number One rule in advertising is, “Sex Sells.” Few people know that Number Two is, “Nostalgia.” Why are Triumph Bonnevilles such hot sellers? Why does Harley never change the fundamental look of its bikes? Why has Polaris sunk millions into resurrecting Indian? It’s because of one sentence that starts with, “Remember when …”
Nostalgia. As humans, we tend to remember the good, as the bad fades away, be it a past relationship, former college, or first motorcycle. Nobody wants to admit the truth about the Yamaha V-Max when it first appeared in 1985. It was cool. It was cultish. It was a rocket. And it SUCKED if you had to go around a turn.
Whatever your passion, we want to belong. It is imprinted in our DNA. The levels of belongingness are simply subsets of a bigger group, from bigger-to-smaller.
For instance, ordering this college football passion in my life is as follows:
• I want to belong to a group of people who love college football.
• I want to belong to people who love Florida State.
• I want to belong to a group of people who cheer for ACC football.
• I want to belong to people who actually went to school at FSU, so we can share stories.
So if I worked on a motorcycle showroom floor, it may look like this.
• I want to belong to a group of people who love motorcycles.
• I want belong to a group of people who love European motorcycles.
• I want to belong to a group of people who love Triumph motorcycles.
• I want to belong to a group of people who actually ride a Triumph, so we can share stories.
Zig Ziglar said it best. “Sales is a transfer of enthusiasm.” In want-based selling (read: motorcycles), that couldn’t be more appropriate. It isn’t about horsepower, color, or price, and it isn’t a stupid word-track. It’s about your ability to bring me into your small niche and sell me on why I want to be part of your group. Is your lifestyle cool enough to make me want to belong?
Sam Dantzler is the founder of Sam’s Powersports Garage, a membership website dedicated to best practices and all-staff training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.