Use strong branding to tell the world what you stand for
In today’s market, being remarkable is essential. If you don’t have a clear and compelling brand that communicates your message simply and quickly, you will always find it hard to compete.
Your brand is your message to the world. Everything your sporting organisation has produced and implemented until now has helped to form the brand you have. Your job is to ensure that your sports organisation’s brand is clear, easily articulated, and meaningful to your target market.
A brand is important because it is the “face” of your whole business. It determines how people see you and what to expect. If you want your sports organisation to be successful, you have to let people know why they should engage with you and what the emotional and rational benefits are.
There are some important steps in developing a brand that stands out.
The starting point in developing a brand is to understand its “personality”—the type of approach it uses to take on the world. By doing this we get a deeper understanding of the way a brand might act and how it should be portrayed and promoted to the world.
In many ways, brands are like people. If you meet a person today and then see them again tomorrow, it’s likely you will both be wearing different clothes and meeting at a different place. Regardless of this, their underlying personality will be the same. The way they talk to you, their gestures, what they say, and how they engage with you are all personality traits.
Regardless of the environment or other factors, the personality of your brand should be considered and consistent. It’s important to think about the way you want your brand to come across to people. Should it be fun, serious, playful, funny, or something else entirely? You should make this choice consciously and not leave it to chance.
You should never build a brand without knowing who is going to “buy” it. Who will be your ideal customer? Who are the people for whom your offer is a perfect solution?
Remember the old saying, “You can’t be all things to all people”? This is very true of sports organisations. The worst thing that you can do is think that the target market for your sport is “everyone who lives here because everyone likes sport.”
Your target market is the group of people who pay you money for your goods and services. Usually, the people who pay the most are your primary target market. For many sports organisations, it may be that sponsors or government (local, state, federal) are your primary target market because they are the ones providing most of the revenue.
Identify your competitors
In any sport, you need to know whom you are playing against, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they are planning to compete. This is just as important off the field of play as it is on it.
Make a list of all your competitors and understand what they bring to the marketplace. Here’s a hint: your strongest competitors will not always be other sporting organisations, but activities and pastimes that take the time that people could use to participate in sport.
Develop your visual language
If you are clear about what we have discussed so far, you will have a really strong foundation for your brand. You will understand it and be able to articulate what it stands for. Now it’s time to bring it to life visually!
The way your sporting organisation appears and acts to the outside world is your brand. What you see visually is the “look and feel” of your brand. We refer to this as the visual language.
The visual language includes your brandmark (or logo), stationery (business cards, letterhead, “With Compliments” slips, and other similar material) and “brand collateral” such as brochures, signs, flyers, promotional pieces, and uniforms. Anything you see that communicates your brand visually is part of your visual language.
Generally, I find that sports organisations fall into three categories in relation to their branding:
1. In control
These organisations have a well identified brand and are consistent in communicating it visually and through other touch points (such as phone manner). There may be a few small inconsistencies, but generally, the brand is clearly identifiable, the logo and colours of the brand are used consistently, and the target market is very clear about what the brand stands for.
2. Gone missing
There’s a brand, but it’s poorly implemented or out of date (brands get old, just like people). There is an element of consistency, but the brand has been allowed to wander and become less clear than it could be. Well-meaning people may have decided to “do something new and exciting” for the brand, which, while it may look good on its own, doesn’t help the overall look and feel.
3. Brand Zero
These brands are poorly implemented and out of control. There are different versions of the logo, none of the collateral looks the same, all the uniforms have different designs, some of the colours are wrong, and generally the brand looks shabby. While a sporting organisation with poor branding like this can survive, it will never reach its true potential.
Developing a strong brand is a critical component of great marketing. Here’s three ways to find out more: