Imagine -- well, you don't actually have to imagine, since we're talking about the Green Bay Packers, but work with me -- there's a nearly 100-year-old business. One that generated record revenue of $507 million and record operating profits of $70 million last year. One with nearly $500 million in cash reserves.
Also imagine -- well, tens of thousands of people don't have to actually imagine -- that you're a fan of that business. You could feel so loyal to it that, sometimes, when you refer to its results, you may even use the pronoun "we."
Now imagine you can be a part owner of that business.
Well, kind of.
On Tuesday, the Green Bay Packers began selling 300,000 shares of Packer "stock" for $300 per share (plus $35 for shipping and handling). If the offering sells out, that will bring the total number of shares to a little over 5.3 million.
So why "stock"?
Unlike normal shares of stock, shares in this $90 million offering have no underlying value. Cannot be transferred or sold to other investors. Pay no dividends. Don't qualify for a tax deduction, even though Green Bay Packers Inc. is a nonprofit. Won't get you access to season tickets, or move you up the wait list.
What you do get is a cool stock certificate.
And limited voting rights, even though purchasing the maximum allowable 200 shares means your vote carries .0004 percent weight. (That level of ownership won't spark a visit from the shareholder-influencing pair of Logan and Kendall Roy.)
And access to "shareholders only" merchandise.
What will the money be used for? Good question. According to Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy, "We don't really have a specific [goal] in mind." (Although stadium upgrades are the likely use, especially since the NFL stipulates that money raised from stock sales can be used only for things like stadium and facilities improvement projects, not for operating expenses or player salaries.)
So: Sound like a good deal?
To the cynical, absolutely not. Even the Packers admit shares really aren't "stock." Add up all the disclaimers and the offering is clearly just a fundraising scheme.
One that fans clearly not only accept, but also approve of. The last stock offering in 2012 was fully subscribed. So far so good this time as well. Over 30,000 shares were sold in the first three hours, and over 80,000 by the end of the first day.
Because sports occupy an unusual -- and enviable -- position in the business landscape. To fans, the value proposition is on-field success, and on-field success comes with an off-field financial cost.
If I'm a Packer fan, the $300 I spend may not actually buy me a share of stock ... but it may help contribute to the success of "my" team.
To feel like I'm actually part of the team.
Feeling special? Feeling like I'm part of a larger movement?
That's the ultimate form of customer loyalty, one every business aspires to earn.