How Franchises Create an Emotional Connection
Any sports fan knows their favorite team plays a substantial role in their lives, recreation time, and even identity. To my mild surprise, my family has joined the spectators’ ranks and found great joy in it. I’m writing this article on the first day of the NHL playoffs, and we’re all rooting for our hometown Seattle Kraken.
Like most kids who grew up in Wisconsin, I played a lot of hockey. Being tall is a hindrance in the sport; it’s much harder to change directions quickly when you have long legs. So, my 6-foot-6-inch frame held me back from being an outstanding player, but I always enjoyed the game.
Despite a 20-year gap after college, I started playing again in a men’s over-40 league some years back. Unlike many other sports, ice hockey is easy on your joints, and some of these guys play until they’re 70. It’s a good workout and a lot of fun.
So, when the Seattle Kraken was founded in 2021, it felt natural for the office to buy season tickets and take attorneys and clients to games. I hadn’t done anything like that before, but I figured attending a hockey match would be an entertaining way to connect outside work. I also decided to take my family to see the Kraken play — and they had a much better time than I ever expected.
We’re now a group of devout fans, and you’ll find us in the stands for many of the weekend games supporting the NHL’s 32nd franchise. Many people don’t think of national sports leagues as franchising operations, but that’s exactly what they are. Of course, they are extraordinarily expensive franchises — opening a new quick-serve restaurant doesn’t cost billions of dollars like many NFL teams do — but they are franchises all the same.
Franchising is a concept that allows groups to come together under one brand umbrella to better interact with the public. Every owner pays to play and agrees to uniform rules. As a result, consumers receive a relatively consistent experience. Of course, some teams play better than others, but fans can expect some uniformity across game broadcasts, branded clothing, and team memorabilia. And even when we support different teams, pro sports allow tens of millions of people to enjoy the same overall institution.
I wasn’t thinking about this when I took my family to my first Kraken game. The idea that I was introducing them to the magic of franchising came later. Now, I see how closely NHL games mimic the role of other franchises in our lives. Whether they prefer McDonald’s or Chick-fil-A, people feel passionate about the food they eat. Taco Bell has a loyal national following, while Taco Time inspires regional reverence. Franchises are part of the American fabric, and we develop affection and nostalgia for them.
Hopefully, my family will continue enjoying Kraken games for years. But the team has already provided a touchstone for us. It’s an experience we can all gather around and enjoy together. The best franchises work their way into many parts of our social, emotional, and cultural existence — from restaurants we visit with our families to teams that can get us all up out of our seats.