A Fan Engagement Lesson from the Minnesota Vikings

“Our brand means many things to many people.” As we cheer from the sidelines and the comfort of our couch on game day, it can be easy to loose sight of the fact that great American sports teams like the Minnesota Vikings are some of our most prominent brands. One thing these mega-brands can’t loose sight of is their fans. “Fans first and foremost,” said Vikings CMO Steve LaCroix during our recent chat. If you’re a Vikings fan, a brand builder, or both, you won’t want to miss this week’s episode. Ready? BREAK!

Enjoy This Episode Now

About Steve LaCroix

Now in his 15th season with the Minnesota Vikings, Steve LaCroix serves as the team’s Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer. LaCroix oversees all aspects of Vikings-generated revenues. He also leads the team’s radio and television programming, websites, digital and social media initiatives, merchandise and e-commerce operations, community and special events, marketing partnerships, advertising, branding, promotions, graphic design, fan relations and game day activities. He also played a significant role in the recent stadium transition team.

LaCroix has led a variety of additional new initiatives, including the team’s introduction of an enhanced Norseman logo and new uniforms in 2013, the second uniform change under LaCroix’s leadership. The club has also brought radio and television broadcast rights in-house and started year-round weekly television and radio programming. The Vikings have had multiple full re-designs of vikings.com and opened Vikings Locker Room official retail stores across the Twin Cities. Fans have been treated to the introduction of Viktor the Viking, the official team mascot, and the Skol Line drum line. Under LaCroix, the Vikings sellout streak reached 144 games at Mall of America Field.

A fellow alum of the University of Iowa and board member for the Marketing Institute here on campus, I was excited to welcome Steve to the On Brand podcast.

Episode Highlights

“Our brand means many things to many people.” A sports franchise is a vast brand with numerous touch points — nearly all of which fall under Steve’s domain. The Vikings are the team of choice for many in the upper Midwest, especially the five-state area closest to home. Another part of that brand? The progressive and innovative Viking culture. “Vikings were very progressive on things like women’s rights.” This is useful to keep in mind today as half of the team’s fans are women.

“96% of fans never set foot in our stadium.” That’s why the team has to focus on building a rich brand experience across all of their touch points. “We have so few touch points when you compare our season to baseball. They can build more of a rapport with fans because they see them more. Every game has to be a big deal.”


A photo posted by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on

The strategic story behind the Vikings new mascot. Part of maximizing the brand experience is looking for ways to do that throughout the week out in the community. As the Viking brand is already personified through the iconic logo, LaCroix and team took things a step further with the introduction of Viktor the Viking, the official team mascot. “Our brand is a person. We introduced the mascot to get him out into the schools and at community events.”

What’s one thing Steve would remind brand builders? “Don’t lose sight of your fans.” With a sports brand, fans are more top of mind. However, businesses of all shapes and sizes could benefit from a greater focus on fan engagement. “At the end of the day, we’re in the entertainment business. We’re looking at how to engage with our fans all year – even during the off-season.”

What brand has made Steve smile recently? “My old employer — the Indiana Pacers. They’ve done a neat tie in with the movie Hoosiers this past year.”

To learn more about Steve, check out Vikings.com.

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …  With two Iowa Hawkeyes on the podcast this week, we had to give a shout to the (then) undefeated Hawks who are now Rose Bowl bound! Go Hawks!

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

Last but not least …

  • Subscribe to the podcast – You can subscribe to the show via iTunes, Stitcher, and RSS.
  • Rate and review the show – If you like what you’re hearing, head over to iTunes and click that 5-star button to rate the show. And if you have a few extra seconds, write a couple of sentences and submit a review. This helps others find the podcast.
  • OK. How do you rate and review a podcast? Need a quick tutorial on leaving a rating/review in iTunes? Check this out.

Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!