The way your sports 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 slip 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 there are three categories that sporting organisations fall into 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 touchpoints (such as phone manner). There may be a few small inconsistencies, but generally, there is a clearly identifiable brand, 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There’s a brand, but its poorly implemented or out of date (brands get old, just like people…).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 brand.
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 differing 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.
Regardless of the position your brand is in, the approach to moving forward successfully is the same – develop a plan and see it through.
Write a brief, covering the background to the brand, current situation, target market, main competitors, specific elements you require, budget and timeline. Its important that you think through this clearly and don’t just ‘slap it together’. Take the time to include everything you need and get someone to read it once done.
Taking some extra time here will save you time, money and a lot of frustration later on. Try to include information and examples of other brands you like and some you don’t like… and why! You will be handing this brief to a graphic designer to bring your brand to life visually and they are not mind readers! Ensure you give them a complete picture of where your brand is and where you want it to be.
Even if you need only minor changes to your brand, this is still important. You will also find that doing this provides direction for other parts of your branding and marketing – such as what to put on your website and how to better engage with your target market.
Finally, include the EXACT items you require. For example – Logo, business cards for 3 people, ‘skin’ for a website, a brochure for your junior development program, design of a uniform for staff and 2 types of signs to be displayed in your venue.
Once you have done this, you need to engage a good graphic designer with a track record to develop your logo and visual language.
Visual Language list
There is no end to the number or range of elements you can use to communicate your brand, but there are some you should use. I’ve included a checklist here of all the things you may need when going through a re-branding project :
The brandmark generally consists of two elements – a ‘wordmark’ and a ‘picturemark’. There will be times when they will be used together and times when they should be separate. It’s also wise to have a vertical format and a horizontal format for your brandmark. Depending on the situation, either may be useful.
Business cards, letterhead (including electronic format) and With Compliments slips. While business cards are essential, letterhead and With Compliments slips are less so. Instead of these elements, I use small ‘gift cards’, promotional cards (about the size of a beer coaster) and postcards. They are cheap to print, different from what everyone else is doing and can be used for many more things than letterhead or With Compliments slips.
3. Website ‘skin’
The term ‘skin’ refers to the ‘look and feel’ of the website – include this requirement in your brief. It requires co-ordination with the provider of your website, but is increasingly the way your brand is seen by your target market, both as the starting point and for ongoing communication. If you have, or intend to use, Facebook, Twitter and other social media, this should also be branded. You guessed it – include it on the list!
Signage around your venue should reflect the brand. Identify what’s needed and include it here.
Include playing uniforms, staff uniforms and any promotional clothing you want to sell. It may be that you just include your logo on a t-shirt. That’s fine, just make sure the Visual Language fits with your brand.
6. Event programs
If you run regular events and produce a program, consider developing a 4-colour printed cover that can then be filled with photocopied inner pages.
7. Marketing brochures and flyers, Information sheets.
You may not be ready to develop all of these at the time of re-branding, but once again, adhere to the Visual language of your brand when you do.
I believe a regular Newsletter is the single best thing you can do to promote and build your brand. If you took nothing else from this entire report, developing a newsletter would be a great start for increasing the influence and revenue of your brand. Have a ‘master’ copy prepared at this stage so you are ready to go.
The Visual Language that you implement is a big part of setting the expectation. Like it or not, we all have preconceived ideas of what a brand is like based on what it looks like. If you have invested time, money and effort in the Visual Language, go the extra step and ensure that the people in your sporting organisation bring this to life in the way they talk and act.