Kickstarter Lesson #206: Who Do You Root For?

14 November 2016 | 13 Comments

anw_707_jessiegraffjpg10 or so years ago, I spent a few hours every Sunday watching football with a few friends. One of those friends was a passionate Atlanta Falcons fan. Eric reveled in every first down and suffered with every turnover. He really loved the Falcons.

I’m a 49ers fan, but my passion for them doesn’t come close to Eric’s love for the Falcons. So I found myself rooting for the Falcons. Even to this day, unless the Falcons are playing the 49ers, I root for them. Not because I care. But because my friend cares so much.

I’m fascinated by what makes us root for teams, people, and organizations, even when it intuitively doesn’t make sense. Understanding this side of human nature can help us become more effective Kickstarter creators.

Today I have a few examples of what I find myself rooting for (even against my better judgment) and how this knowledge might be utilized in crowdfunding campaigns.

  • Pioneers: This summer on American Ninja Warrior, Jessie Graff became the first woman to ever reach stage 2. Aside from her being an incredible athlete and an entertaining competitor, I rooted for her because she was the first at something. If you’re the first at something, highlight it.
  • Underdogs: If you watched the Euro Championship this year, you know how big of a deal it was to see Iceland and Wales advance so far in the tournament. They’re a faction of the size of some of the bigger teams in Europe, yet they competed with the best of them, and they were fun to root for. Same with Leicester in the Premier League last year. Tell us why you’re the underdog.
  • Record Breakers: Michael Phelps is a good example of this. He has dominated his sport over the last, what, 12 years? There’s no logical reason why we should be rooting for him over other athletes who would highly value 1 gold medal (compared to the 23 Phelps has). Yet I root for him every time. Share your accomplishments as humbly as possible.
  • National/Local Pride: Speaking of the Olympics, I almost always root for the US even though, like Phelps, we have more than enough Olympic medals. Another comparison would be on the show Survivor. Every now and then there will be a contestant from St. Louis, and I’ll find myself rooting for them purely because they happen to live in the same city as me. Highlight where you’re from and where you live.
  • Passion: As noted in the example at the beginning of this post, passion is contagious. I think part of the key is that Eric made no claims that the Falcons were the best team–I think that may have had the opposite effect. Share your passion without hyperbole.
  • Personal Stories: For many shows and sporting events, the audience is presented with a number of personal stories. They make me feel for the competitors on a human level, and that’s very powerful. Share your story and show us who you are.
  • Hard Workers: Shark Tank uses the above method to make audiences feel for the contestants, but it doesn’t have the same effect on me. On Shark Tank, I root for the people who have worked really hard–those are the ones whom I want the sharks to help. Convey the time and effort you’ve put into the project.
  • The Generous: Every now and then, someone will go way out of their way to help Stonemaier Games. They’ll identify a need and they’ll address it, and they don’t ask for anything in return. Among those people, some of them have become Kickstarter creators. You can bet that I was there on day one to back their projects. Be proactively generous.
  • Big Openings: I check the box office report every weekend to see how movies did, and it’s exciting for me to see when a movie has a strong opening. Tell us how well your project did over the first 24 hours.
  • Streaks: In baseball, there is statistically no difference between a player who gets a hit at 5 out of 10 at-bats over three games and a player who gets a hit at 5 straight at-bats and then goes 0-for-5. But the hit streak is incredibly exciting to experience–I always find myself rooting for streaks of any kind. Highlight streaks like “days in a row with 20+ backers.”
  • Friends: I root for my friends more than I root for myself, even when I’m competing against friends. I used to host a weekly poker night before that turned into board-game night, and every now and then I’d catch myself wanting certain friends to win even more than I wanted to win (which wasn’t good for my wallet). But I think there’s some truth to this. Real, genuine friendships matter.

That’s just a small sampling of the types of things I find myself rooting for. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this list, as well as other types of things you root for and how they might relate to crowdfunders.

13 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #206: Who Do You Root For?

  1. Jamey, are you familiar with Benedict Anderson’s concept of imagined communities? If not, I think you might find it an interesting read given your interests in the sociological aspects of Kickstarter and community.

  2. Perhaps this falls under passion but I’ll root for Gatekeeper Games and John Wrot! because took the time to ask me why I was canceling a Kickstarter pledge. In the end, not only did I pledge at a higher level, I also got my son to pledge. The personal touch earned my loyalty.

  3. These are all interesting ways to stand out from the crowd. Are there any projects you’ve seen that exhibited one of these qualities so much that you were emotionally invested in it?

    For me, some friends of mine ran a Kickstarter campaign for a product I probably wouldn’t use. But I wanted them to succeed so much that I backed them anyway, just to spark the fire for their campaign.

    1. Sheldon: Definitely! I’ve seen many projects use at least a few of these methods. I don’t think I’ve seen one use all of them, though (which makes sense, as some of them contradict each other).

  4. Another reason, which you touch on with your example about Eric, is that we like to find a reason to connect to a team and will use friends and family as proxies when we don’t actually have a personal connection with either team. For example, when I watched college sports growing up I would find myself rooting for Michigan just because I dad went there (funny thing is he could care less about their sports teams). Relating this to crowdfunding, I think this has a lot to do with the power of having backers sharing with their friends and family what they have backed. With so many projects out there, I think seeing someone that you know (and importantly have a close tie to) has backed a project can help build a connection to that project. I think this also relates to having reviewers/media that people identify with promoting your project.

    1. Miles: “With so many projects out there, I think seeing someone that you know (and importantly have a close tie to) has backed a project can help build a connection to that project.” I couldn’t agree more. Well said.

  5. This is a great list Jamey! I have another one to add to the list … I started my own business in 1999 and back then I had so many people tell me that I was making a mistake, that I was going to lose my shirt etc. etc. Well, 17 years later I’m still going strong, and one of my motivations to succeed – then and now – is to prove the naysayers wrong. I root for people who follow their dream despite those who are telling them that it’s a fool’s errand to do so.

  6. Jaime, I’ve been a Stonemaier admirer for half a year now, ever since I saw the cover of Scythe. On the subject of generosity, one thing that might help you and board game designers everywhere (including me) with the tooling cost for producing plastic game pieces is newer 3D print technologies coming out. HP is introducing their Multijet Fusion 3D printer late this year or early next year. The really exciting thing is that this printer can make production-quality parts at high volumes without any need for people to pay insanely high costs to set up tooling. It now can make financial sense to print 10,000 to 50,000 parts instead of paying for plastic injecting molding. While this HP 3D printer prints in black, later on they are coming out with one that can print parts in full color. Here’s the link to a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXntl3ff5tc. As soon as Shapeways can print with this technology, I’m going to order parts for evaluation for my own game.

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