Brand Perception Study: Sports Fans vs. Swifties


It’s so easy to forget that we all just started out as cave people who gathered around campfires, singing and painting pictures on walls. We are the original concert fans. As our evolution continued, we passed through periods of time where art appreciation was more important than physical strength, and vice-versa. In the 21st century, we’re seeing a mix of both.

Our Research Question

Why are sports fans often glorified in the media, while Taylor Swift fans, particularly Swifties, are often demonized?

The first step in this study is to envision a sports fan and a music fan as brands. This approach is how we reveals interesting similarities and differences in their positioning and branding approaches.

Let’s delve into their distinctive characteristics and how they are perceived by the general public.

man draped with the argentinian flag

Branding Approaches

Both the sports fan and music fan brands are built around a strong sense of identity and community.

The sports fan brand positions itself as a symbol of loyalty, teamwork, and passion for competition. It often emphasizes the thrill of victory and the camaraderie that comes from supporting a particular team or athlete. On the other hand, the music fan brand aligns itself with creativity, self-expression, and emotional resonance. It often emphasizes the power of music to evoke emotions, create connections, and inspire change.

If you’re following what I’m saying, you’ll notice one key difference so far is the fan’s focus on a team versus on an individual.

Despite commonalities, their branding approaches diverge significantly. The sports fan brand typically employs a more straightforward and competitive marketing strategy, leveraging slogans, mascots, and merchandise to foster a sense of belonging and team spirit. It often promotes a sense of tribalism, encouraging fans to rally behind their favorite teams and engage in friendly rivalries with opposing fan bases.

Conversely, the music fan brand tends to focus on cultivating a more nuanced and emotional connection with its audience. It often relies on storytelling, artist personas, and immersive experiences to deepen the connection between the music and its fans.

Public Perception

The general public perceives the sports fan brand as synonymous with excitement, tradition, and a strong sense of community. Many view it as a unifying force that fosters a shared sense of pride and identity within local and national contexts. However, some critics argue that the intense rivalry and occasional hooliganism associated with certain sports fan communities can promote divisiveness and aggressive behavior.

The music fan brand is often perceived as a source of inspiration, cultural influence, and personal expression. Many appreciate its ability to transcend boundaries and bring people together through shared musical experiences. However, detractors may criticize certain music fan communities for fostering an exclusivist mentality or promoting excessive idolization of artists.

In essence, while both the sports fan and music fan brands serve as powerful symbols of identity and belonging, their distinct positioning and branding approaches lead to different public perceptions. The sports fan brand is often associated with competition and camaraderie, whereas the music fan brand is more closely linked to emotional resonance and creative expression. Understanding these dynamics can provide valuable insights into the diverse ways in which brands can effectively connect with and influence their target audiences in the realm of popular culture.

Now, let’s take a look at the Swifties. In the context of the United States, the perception of a Taylor Swift fan, known as a “Swiftie,” compared to that of a sports fan, exhibits both similarities and notable differences.

Swifties, much like sports fans, are recognized for their intense devotion and passionate engagement with their chosen artist. They often form vibrant online communities, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared enthusiasm for Taylor Swift’s music, personal journey, and creative evolution. Similarly, Swifties, like sports fans, actively participate in discussions, debates, and promotional activities, contributing to the broader narrative surrounding Taylor Swift’s work and public persona. This active engagement reflects their dedication to not just the music itself but also the artist’s values, experiences, and artistic expression, akin to the way sports fans support and champion their favorite teams or athletes.

However, a notable difference lies in the nature of the engagement and the underlying emotional resonance.

While sports fans primarily rally around the thrill of competition, team loyalty, and the pursuit of victory, Swifties often connect on a more personal and emotional level with Taylor Swift’s lyrics and narratives. They find solace, empowerment, and relatability in her music, fostering a deeply intimate and almost symbiotic relationship with the artist. This emotional connection often translates into a fervent protection of Taylor Swift’s image, artistic integrity, and personal life. This is a drastic difference that distinguishes Swifties from sports fans who typically focus on the competitive aspects of the sports world. Thus, while both groups exhibit passionate dedication, the emotional intimacy of the Swiftie’s relationship with Taylor Swift sets them apart from the more competitive and team-oriented nature of traditional sports fans.

people enjoying the concert

Brand Perception and Criticisms

Both of these “brands”, the typical sports fan and the Swiftie, face criticism.

Taylor Swift fans are often portrayed as excessive or overly enthusiastic. Sports fans are also critiqued by mass media for their exuberance.

Both groups face scrutiny for their passionate and sometimes fervent behavior, with some critics highlighting instances of extreme devotion and even perceived intrusiveness into the personal lives of their idols or favorite athletes.

Media articles criticizing Swifties often focus on their intense online presence, including their swift mobilization for various causes and their swift backlash against perceived injustices toward Taylor Swift. I mean, wow, just look at how quickly the Taylor Swift + Travis Kelce relationship was able to be monetized by other brands.

Sports fans have also been depicted in the media as aggressive or overly competitive, especially in cases where fan enthusiasm spills over into disruptive or even violent behavior during sporting events.

These criticisms underscore the potential for extreme fandom to sometimes transcend healthy boundaries, leading to negative stereotypes and public perceptions.

However, there are distinct differences in the way these criticisms are framed. While Taylor Swift fans are often criticized for their online behavior and perceived overreactions to events related to the artist, sports fans may receive more attention for incidents of hooliganism or rowdy behavior at sporting events. The media often highlights instances of violence, vandalism, or unruly conduct associated with certain sports fan groups, shaping public perceptions of sports fandom as occasionally tending toward aggression… or even worse, mob mentality.

This portrayal contrasts with criticisms of Swifties, which more commonly revolve around the intensity of their online presence and their zealous defense of the artist rather than physical altercations or disturbances at live events.

Sports fans are often glorified in the media due to the emphasis on traditional values of competition, team spirit, and national pride, which align with societal norms and ideals of physical prowess. Their passionate support for teams and athletes is frequently celebrated as a manifestation of community unity and fervent patriotism.

On the other hand, Taylor Swift fans, particularly Swifties, may be demonized in the media due to the perception of their emotional investment in an individual artist as excessive or obsessive, deviating from the more accepted norms of fandom tied to team sports and national identity. This intense focus on an individual, often construed as invasive or overly protective, can lead to negative portrayals that differ from the more generally accepted and celebrated fervor surrounding sports.


To summarize this thought exercise, sports fans are often glorified in the media due to their alignment with traditional values of competition and national pride, while Taylor Swift fans, particularly Swifties, may be demonized due to their perceived excessive emotional investment in an individual artist, diverging from the more accepted norms of team-based fandom.

The next time you’re at a sports game, or a concert, take a look around. Really dig into the moment and take a breath. Instead of judging the people around you, try to jive with the vibes.

Whether cheering on a team, or an artist, everyone deserves to enjoy things.

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