Liverpool and Anfield are synonyms for football. Wimbledon is a synonym for tennis. GP Monaco or Monza are synonyms for Formula 1.

Zadar? Zadar is a synonym for passionate basketball fans. They are organized in a group called  Tornado Zadar since 1965.

Hard to believe? Check out this footage (made in 1974).

They have travelled all over Europe with Zadar since then and celebrated their 50th birthday in August 2015.

The main celebration was on Zadar’s seafront with thousands of people gathering for concerts, mingling, drinks, etc. Zadar-born people travelled from all over Croatia and Europe to be there, while Tornado made a big show with flares.

This article is not about Tornado

So, for now, we have:

a) passionate fans

b) city with a long basketball tradition. Basketball club Zadar was a national champion with many well-known players such as Kresimir Cosic, Dino Radja, Pino Giergia, etc.

Zadar used to play in a small gym called Jazine, in which fans were practically on the court with the players. Singing and cheering lasted the whole match and the away team never had an easy job.

In 2008 BC Zadar moved into a bigger and modern gym named “Kresimir Cosic” with 8000 seats. But something went wrong, as if something got lost on the way to the new gym. While the financial situation in the club was becoming worse with each month, stands were getting emptier. Big games attracted greater number of people, but something was missing.

There was no story… During matches against “small teams”, there were around 2000 visitors in the gym.

Zadar is a clear example of marketing not doing its job. The club management relied on tradition and passion but didn’t have continuous work on telling the club’s story, merchandising, promo events, maintaining the connection between the team and the fans.

We organized a sports marketing workshop in Zadar in July 2015 and talked with many people about BC Zadar. The majority of people believed that results were the main trigger to “wake people up” in Zadar. We tried to point out that clubs/associations who rely on results are not doing a great job in telling a story and we stand by that claim.

Evidence? Here is the video from the Tornado’s 50th birthday (wait for 0:50)

Geplaatst door Iva Perincic photography op Dinsdag 18 augustus 2015

Fans didn’t lose their passion. Love for basketball is not gone. They just need a push. They need a reason to come back and be a part of BC Zadar’s story. Forget about “if they love the club they should come”. It’s 2015, people have at least 5 options for Saturdays’ activities, besides going to a basketball game.

Even Tornado has a story from back in 1998 when BC Zadar had to pay a fine for a fans’ misbehavior. They’ve organized an action called “Buy a ticket, don’t go to the match” which resulted in gathering of 25-30 thousand people in front of the hall during the final match. Even thought they couldn’t enter the gym (financial fine & fans’ entry ban), fans bought tickets and the money was transferred for paying the club’s fine.

What can be done:

1. Marketing strategy – gather a team of professionals who will analyze the situation, make a proper strategy and develop an operational plan.
2. Talk to the fans – fans are “consumers” of your product. Talk to them. Try to understand their point of view and what is wrong with your approach.
3. Work, work, work – it’s not all about big budgets. There are local companies and entrepreneurs willing to connect with a strong brand like BC Zadar.
4. Test and change – This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. If one activity doesn’t work, try something else. Change the approach. Shock and awe. Don’t give up after 3 months because some Board members “don’t get it”.
5. Educate your team – Many employees in your club don’t understand what marketing really is and what can be achieved. Organize short presentations, workshops, involve them and gather ideas. Make them feel as a part of the team.
6. Tell your story – with such tradition and passionate fans, you have a number of stories to tell. Just tell them and be proud.

Photo by: (Iva Perinčić)



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