– AKC’s True Fans —
If you’re anything like my wife and I, it all started the day you brought that one dog into your life. For us, it was Caesar – our first Bullmastiff. Since there was no Internet back then, we found him through the classifieds in our local paper. He was a great dog, just not a great Bullmastiff. But that didn’t matter to us. We loved him – and lost him much too early. But in that short time, he made us fall in love with the Bullmastiff breed. We researched the breed and breeders, learned about conformation events, attended dog shows, and began to collect that array of breed paraphernalia that somehow invades every corner of your home. I imagine many of you are wearing your breed on you somewhere right now – pins or jewelry or clothing or even, I would wager, some have a tattoo. In short, we, like you, became fans of a breed and fans of our sports.
I like being called a fan, don’t you? I like what it stands for, even though some people believe the idea of “fans” came from “fanatics” – a usually pejorative word. Actually, The Dickson Baseball Dictionary cites William Henry Nugent’s work asserting that “fan” was derived from “the fancy,” a term from England referring to the enthusiasts of a specific hobby or sport – like dog shows. The word came into common usage in America in 1889, just five years after the launch of the American Kennel Club. Coincidence? I think not.
It is an accepted fact in sports that your fans can have a demonstrable impact on performance. In football, which allows 11 players on the field, the assemblage of fans in the stadium is collectively referred to as the “12th man.” A researcher from Harvard University discovered that the home team achieved a tenth of a point advantage for every 10,000 fans in the stadium.
Imagine the advantage we could have for purebred dogs, for breeders, and for our sport with a much larger active fan base. We have already begun to do just that with Facebook.
There are lots of numbers associated with Facebook, but the most important are those that identify your true fan base. There is a simple equation that does that: the number of “people talking about this” divided by the total number of “likes” which is called “engagement.” According to experts, an acceptable engagement rate, or true fans, is in the range of one to two percent.
Two baseball teams with very strong fan bases are the New York Yankees and the New York Mets. The Yankees have an engagement rate of 4% and the Mets have 6%. Both are doing better than acceptable in growing their fan base.
Apple, one of the world’s strongest and best-liked brands, is at 1.4%
HSUS is at 1.6% and ASPCA is at 4%.
The AKC’s engagement rate – the measurement of true fans – is an astounding 30%! The actual number of true fans is 535,000 – higher than any of those I just mentioned by a multiple. In fact, we have 16 times more true fans than HSUS.
You cannot manufacture a fan base. You cannot buy a fan base. You create it by telling stories about the many things that happen in our world, throughout the day, throughout the years. Sometimes it is about winning, but mostly it is about unique, emotional experiences that can only happen when dogs and people come together. Those stories are best when told by fans – people like you. As Napoleon said, “Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent.”
At the Delegates Meeting on Monday, Chris Walker presented an informative guide to utilizing social media to help your clubs. It will be posted on AKC.org. I’ll reiterate the conclusion of the presentation: We need you to talk – promote yourselves, promote your dogs and promote the sport of purebred dogs. And educate people about responsible dog ownership. Be proud of the love and service you have given the sport over the years and nurture new people into the sport.
In short, spread the truth.
There are people and organizations that don’t want the truth about the AKC to be known. Hate may attack it and ignorance may ridicule it, but in the end, the truth is irrefutable. While yawns, laughter, and germs are infectious, the most powerful infectious thing is spreading the truth.
As true fans, we will stay strong, stand up for dogs, and speak out for our values. And we won’t stop until every critic becomes a fan.
As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.