Sports Team Branding and How to Do It Right
Here on the ThemeBoy blog we talk a lot about marketing your sports team. Many of the measures we mention can be used very effectively to say “hey, this is us!”.
However, what if you are not entirely sure about who you are yet? What are you going to tell people then?
To address this issue, today I want to take a step back and look at what lies at the core of all of your marketing efforts: your branding.
Developing sports team branding is the process of figuring out the story, personality and image of the team that is behind the identity and messages you send out to the world.
In a previous post, we’ve touched on how to create a sports team logo, however, in this post we want to look into it in more detail.
In the following, we will talk about the importance of branding and its benefits before we move on to sports team branding specifically and how to implement it for your club.
Ready for some branding 101? Then let’s get started.
What is Branding and Why Does It Matter?
As mentioned, branding is about establishing an image of how you would like to be seen and thought of by others.
In business, those people are usually the customers. Companies want clients to think of them in a positive light so they buy their products.
As a sports team, your branding is more about your fans, sponsors, club members and their personalities and performance. You also want them to perceive you in certain way so they cheer for you, support you and have respect for you.
How can you achieve that? Well, that’s exactly where sports team branding comes in. Yet, branding is not really one single thing you do but the foundation that determines how you present yourself to the outside in general.
Among others, branding has an influence on:
- Your website design
- Your team colors and team logo
- The design of your social media accounts
- Player uniforms
- The sponsors and other partnerships you choose to work with
In short, branding is a big part of anything others see that is representative of you. It’s what they think of and feel about your team and everything you put out there should enhance this in a positive way.
(How do you know what others think about you? By doing market research for your team, of course!)
Yet, sports team branding is more than a gimmick. It’s not about constructing an image and forcing it on other people.
Instead your brand should capture who your team is at its core and be congruent with the values you stand for so you are comfortable projecting it to the outside.
Think of branding as the DNA of your organization, and what people will say about you when you aren’t in the room.
That’s why branding also extends to the small things like how you present yourself at events, how you talk to people outside of the team and everything else.
Sounds like a lot of effort? You bet it is. However, if done right, branding is worth your while.
The Benefits of Sports Team Branding
So, why go through all this trouble? Why is branding important? Can’t you just be yourself and not care about what others think about you?
Why yes, as I already mentioned the best branding is the one that fits your own understanding of yourself. Otherwise people will understand quickly that it doesn’t fit.
However, when you do present a consistent image to the outside world, the benefits are numerous.
Branding Gives Your Team a Unique Identity
Whichever sport you play, chances are high that you are not the only team playing it (I mean, there are even several Quidditch teams in real life).
For this reason and because the online space is full of people shouting at the top of their lungs, it’s easy to disappear in the noise and become just another face in the crowd.
Thus, when trying to attract new fans and players, people will ask themselves what’s special about you in particular. Why should they cheer for you and not someone else?
A clear brand can answer these questions and provide you with a personality others can relate to.
Sports Team Branding Increases Trust and Loyalty
As humans we are attracted to those who think and feel similar to us and share our values. If we can strongly identify with them, we are much more likely to feel drawn to them.
Same works for sports teams.
Sports team branding creates opportunities for people to identify with your team and feel like they are a part of it. It gives your team a personality that others can feel akin to and build an emotional connection with.
In your personal life you probably care more about those you feel connected to than those you feel indifferent about, right?
With sports teams it’s the same deal. Thus, if you give others reasons to care about you, you will be rewarded with trust and loyalty from (potential) fans, players and club members.
This can also extend to the pitch. With a congruent and positive team identity, players will be proud to play for your team and be motivated to play well.
A Congruent Brand Increases the Perception of Value
In business, branding is used to make products more desirable by making them seem valuable. The same can work for sports team.
With a consistent image and branding across all communication channels (including your uniforms) you make yourself appear more professional and credible.
This type of thing can come in handy when searching for a sponsor for your sports team. By being perceived as a high-value team, others are more likely to invest in a sponsorship deal as they will feel more comfortable that it will be worth their time.
In addition to that, opponents might also have more respect. A professional sports team branding makes you look like you have your stuff together. If you have the confidence to position yourself like that, just imagine what your playing skills must be like.
Branding Pays Off Over the Long Term
Many marketing measures for sports teams are short term and meant to make your team known to more people here and now.
Branding, on the other hand, is a long-term investment. Over time, as people become more familiar with your brand and start to recognize it, it will get easier for you to win over new fans, attract players and sponsors.
By having a well-recognized brand, you get a lot of advance trust and doors will start opening more easily for you.
Sports Team Branding – How to Do it Right
Now that you have a better idea about what branding is, let’s talk about how to integrate it into your own marketing activities.
The good news: technology has made it much easier and more affordable even for smaller teams to brand themselves like professionals.
You also no longer only have to rely on your hometown and local area to find fans, players and sponsors. Instead, the Internet gives you access to reach a much larger audience.
The bad news: the bar is also much higher. Since everyone can market themselves online, there is a lot more competition and lots of bad examples of sports team branding.
Therefore, it’s important that you differentiate yourself from the masses and be the exception to the rule.
Sounds like a tall order? It doesn’t have to be. Here are a few ideas how to create a top brand for your sports team.
1. Think About What You Want to Be Perceived as
The first thing about creating a brand for your sports team is to define it. For that, you need to get down to the nitty gritty of who you are or aspire to be.
As mentioned earlier, this is not about putting a thin layer of paint on yourself and making yourself look like something you are not. It’s about finding an image for yourself that you are comfortable representing and can identify with.
For that, the first step is to think through your values. Just like when creating a sports team logo you need to define the core of who you are as a team.
What do you represent? What is your message? How do you want to be thought of by people? Professional or cavalier? Disciplined? Confident? Strong?
Branding is about standing for something that no one else stands for. The image you create is bigger than success and loss on the field and will endure through the ups and downs of the lifetime of the team.
It will be the guiding principle behind all your communication measures, so don’t hesitate to spend some time on it and brainstorm with other club members.
2. Translate Your Ideas Into a Brand
Once you have an sense of your desired identity, it’s time to implement it as a brand. One of the first steps to do that is to design a logo for your team.
Your logo encapsulates your team’s essence and is one of the main focal points for your team identity. That’s the reason why many teams go through repeated logo redesigns to keep up with their development over time.
The logo will also decide a lot about the rest of your brand such as your name and main colors. However, it can also be the other way around. You might start out with colors or name and develop a logo from there.
A second important building block for your sports team brand is the voice. In digital communication it’s not only about what you communicate but also how.
Speaking in a recognizable voice makes your online messages more relatable and gives your team a personality online. This will make it easier for others to identify with you and also more likely that they will communicate back.
A few of the most prolific examples of this are MailChimp, Slack, Buffer and Tumblr. All three services do a great job communicating in a specific brand voice which is both entertaining and informative. You can get a lot of inspiration from them.
Once you have name, logo, colors and voice figured out, you are ready to apply your branding.
3. Communicate Your Brand Congruently Across all Channels
With the most important parts of your sports team branding in place, you can start applying it. This way, people will get familiar with and start recognizing your brand.
As mentioned earlier, branding is in everything you do.
In particular, pay attention to:
- Making your website design fit your brand (for example by applying your team colors to your site)
- Using your logo on your website (here’s how to do that in WordPress using SportsPress) and across all social media accounts
- Employ your voice in every marketing message (including replies on social media)
Plus, make sure to incorporate your brand in other marketing measures.
For example, we already showed you how to use Instagram to market your team as well as Pinterest for sports team marketing and how to run a professional sports team Facebook page. Those are prime opportunities to use your new branding guidelines. Same for when you create marketing material like sports team videos and photos.
However, this is just the surface. As I said before, branding goes beyond mere visuals. It’s true purpose is to communicate your core values.
Therefore, it’s important to figure out how you can do so in other ways as well, for example in your conduct offline.
Do you stand for fair play? Then make sure everyone makes an effort to act accordingly on the field. Community? Find ways to give back to your local area by doing fundraisers for good causes or give back to your fans in meaningful ways.
Remember, branding is more than pretty pictures. It’s about identity and how you represent yourself to the world.
4. Iterate and Evolve
All seriousness aside, although congruency is important, you don’t need to overdo it.
Your brand is not a fixed thing but something that is fluid to a certain extent. You will not decide on one single image and then represent it congruently one hundred percent of the time.
In fact, your image and what you want to be seen as will likely evolve over time. Maybe you move to another league, maybe some other external situation changes and so does the way you think of and present yourself.
That’s fine and to be expected. Don’t let it keep you from trying out new things and making mistakes. The important part is to stay conscious of these changes and continue making conscious choices for your outside communication.
That might mean going through the above process again and again to stay up to date. It might also mean making experiments on your communication channels and failing from time to time. As long as you care, you will likely find a way to stay true to yourself.
Ready to Get Your Sports Team Branding on?
Like businesses, sports teams also benefits from creating a brand for themselves. Sports team branding is a great opportunity to define and communicate your team’s unique identity and core values.
By positioning yourself in a certain way, you make it easier for players, fans and club members to find commonalities and points for identification. This, in turn, grows loyalty and fosters trust.
By communicating congruently and professionally to the outside, you also increase your team’s perceived value — good news for sponsorship deals and other opportunities.
Overall, defining your sports team’s branding is a great chance to turn yourself into a unit with a mission. A mission that others can emotionally connect with so they take part in your triumphs, losses and the emotional rollercoaster of being a fan.
That, after all, is what sports is all about.
Are you looking for ways to apply branding to your sports team website? Our SportsPress plugin and themes have options for that built in and let you create professional websites for sports teams quickly and conveniently. Questions? We’d love to hear from you!