SEATTLE — Your eyes do not deceive you. There are a lot of people wearing the Kraken logo of late.
That does not surprise Dr. Natalie Welch, an assistant professor in Seattle University’s sports management program at the Albers business school.
“It’s the idea that we associate with winning teams, or even winning individuals, like in politics, that we experience our own boost of self-esteem, and we feel better,” Welch said.
There is, in fact, a scientific, psychological term for the phenomenon: BIRGing or basking in reflected glory, as defined by the American Psychological Association.
The fact that you invest your time into something like that, and you feel like this reward," Welch said. "It's almost like we talk about dopamine with social media. Like when you invest in something like that, you get kind of that dopamine hit and you feel you feel better about yourself, just because you've invested in something that is winning.
The term dates to the 70s, and to a study that analyzed whether college students would wear logos depending on the success of a sports team.
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Besides the gear, Nielsen ratings show that Kraken playoff games are 10 times more watched than the regular-season average, and the top five telecasts during the May ratings period in western Washington have been the Kraken playoff games.
Regional history also shows how short-term BIRGing can have long-term gains.
Gonzaga’s men’s basketball program rose to prominence in the late 90s, and the university saw the benefit in terms of boosting applications, donations and construction on the Spokane campus. There is an argument the basketball team changed the overall trajectory of the school.
Seattle Kraken Senior Vice President Todd Humphrey told KOMO News merchandise sales have soared, with 5,000 sweaters — or jerseys — sold in the past 30 days. The franchise has sold 31,000 since the start of the season. In fact, according to Humphrey, the Kraken playoff game day merchandise sales have been No. 1 in the league, with three home game dates among the top five revenue days for any team across the NHL during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Welch says you can notice if someone is BIRGing when they start talking about the team.
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“It's the whole idea of it's not the team, it's we, it's not them," Welch said. "It's we and we're a part of that. It's really fascinating.
Welch noted the concept is not limited to sports, and crosses over to school affiliation, bumper stickers and anything that can “transfer that self-worth to yourself.”
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There is also a psychological term for the opposite, called CORFing, or cutting off reflected failure. That’s when people stop wearing logo wear, avoid associating themselves with a team or person and spending any money.
Which is why winning is just as important off the ice as it is on it.
“It is a really great opportunity for them,” Welch said. “BIRGing is not something that lasts forever.”