Let’s Talk Taglines In Sports

The start of every season is full of newness in the marketing world. Teams have new communication priorities. Hype videos are rolled out. Hashtag emojis are unveiled. And in general, there’s a slew of amazing new creative and concepts.

One thing that always comes up at the start of every new season is the idea of  taglines for teams. To slogan or not to slogan, that is the question?


It’s an interesting debate. And while many seem to like the idea of taglines for teams (as the poll above shows), it can be hard to execute on them. All too often taglines are used, abused and aimless. When so many taglines serve little purpose or change every year, the message becomes muddled.

I believe though, that taglines for teams can be extremely impactful. We’re lucky to work in an industry where people have a deep emotional connection with our brands. Teams have the ability to tell a story, evoke emotion and have people take action. If a message is done right, it matters a lot to the consumer (yes, meaning fans will actually use them).

Taglines have the ability to provide more purpose and focus to a team’s content and creative. They help tie a bow around the story. They can rally a community. But, they need more depth than “just a tagline”.  Taglines must be rooted in insight, strategy and a concept. And, that concept needs to be brought to life across multiple channels and executions. 

The key for taglines to work is to nix the idea that a slogan is just a slogan. If your slogan is only used for your hashtag emoji and nothing else, it serves no purpose. In order for a tagline/slogan to be successful, it needs to have several key ingredients:

A tagline must have a purpose.
The best taglines are deeply rooted in the team’s character, their values, their brand message. It should be ownable. Essentially, your tagline must be rooted in insight on your brand, your fans and what makes you unique.

It  should be simple (and catchy).
We all know attention spans today are short. A strong tagline is simple, easy to understand and something with potential to catch on. 

A tagline should be evergreen.
The best taglines are ones that can stand the test of time. And in order for taglines to stand the test of time, they must be multi-dimensional so the story can evolve. Just Do It is a perfect example of this; it’s broad-reaching enough to evolve with the narrative of Nike over the years.

And, connected to the larger work.
More than anything, a tagline is less about the actual tagline and more about the work that surrounds it. A great tagline is only as great as the work that is done to bring it to life. The execution matters, a lot. 

A tagline must be more than something fans see in one hype video at the start of a season. It must be part of brand messaging, creative and the design aesthetic. It’s about all channels, working together, on all cylinders. It’s about an integrated marketing plan.

Brand narrative > tagline. 
What we’re talking about is a larger campaign and brand narrative. A slogan is the simple external-facing message. The sharp point. What makes a tagline impactful for teams is when everything ladders back to that broader idea. Think more than a slogan, checking a box and walking away. Think holistically and give them a reason for being.

If your team is looking to rally around a tagline, a campaign, a big idea, it’s important to put the work to paper. Integrated marketing campaigns don’t magically come together. They take a lot of focus and disciplined work. 

If your looking to embark on this journey, below is a high-level look at how an outline might come together. Please note this is a high-level outline that will vary based on the exact work, the team, etc. And, of course, it needs a lot more detail:


Chapter 1 – The Foundation

The foundation outlines what the campaign is set out to do, keeping the broader organization in mind. This is where you give a sense of purpose to the work. Below are a few things to think about including as you work through the foundation:

The Vision.
A simple, hard-hitting statement on what the vision is for the campaign.

The Goals
What are the goals of this campaign? Are you trying to tell a stronger brand story? Do you want to rally your community of fans? Typically, the goals outlined are more broad-based.

Objective(s).
This is the statement of what you want to accomplish — and it is measurable. So, for example, at the end of the day you want to increase engagement with your fan base. Make this statement to the point and measurable.

KPIS
A campaign without key performance indicators is an aimless plan. It’s imperative to put to paper what success looks like. Period.

Consumer
You can’t build a plan without understanding who you’re talking to. As part of the foundation, it’s important to put to paper your target consumer. And remember, this isn’t demographics alone. It’s also psychographic. Define their attitude, lifestyle and interests – beyond sport.

Chapter 2 – The Concept

Now that the foundation has been laid, the second chapter is all about the concept. This should set the tone for how you got to the concept (so, essentially pulling key information from your brief and insights) before laying out the actual concept.

The Stake
The stake is really owning what this campaign is set out to do. It’s essentially another reminder for the group on what you are setting out to accomplish. For example, are you setting out to reclaim the relationship with your fans? Or, are you ready to own the story around your team?

The Insights + Landscape
Every good campaign is rooted in insights around the brand, the mission, the competitive landscape, etc. And, it all starts with a brief. Before jumping into the actual campaign concept, take the time to lay out the insights leveraged to come up with the concept. Essentially, what inspired this campaign?

The Opportunity / White Space
Out of all the insights, what is the biggest opportunity to own? What can your team own that is unique? This should be a quick overview of the white space discovered throughout the process. 

The Big Idea
This is the campaign idea in 90 seconds or less. Simple and to the point (and yes, the tagline is often included in this).

The Concept Manifesto
The manifesto is the more in-depth idea around the campaign. It sets the mood and the tone for what the campaign is and gives a strong visual the concept.

Voice + Tone
Voice and tone are so important in a brand campaign. What emotions are you trying to convey? Set guidelines for what the campaign is and is not so the right message and emotions are evoked.

Communications Hierarchy
Less art, more instruction. The communications hierarchy should identify the external communications points of the campaign. Yes, this would include how the tagline fits into the overall picture. It’s a guide for how the campaign is articulated in real life.

Visual Identity
Your visual language is important. This is the place where swipes of inspiration set the mood for the look and feel. It’s an important piece that can impact the entire tone of the work. Make sure the visual identity is rooted in insights around the campaign.

Chapter 3 – The Ideas + Tactics

Now that the foundation is laid, it’s time to get into the fun stuff. The ideas! The final chapter lays out how you’ll actually bring the campaign to life. Here is an example of what might be included (and yes, you’ll need a lot of details):

Guiding Principles 
It’s always helpful to have a guide that level sets how the campaign should come to life. This isn’t a set of hard fast rules per say, but it does help reiterate the philosophies and ideas of the campaign. For example, a guiding principle could be to “lead with emotion”.

Hero Content Pieces
All good campaigns (or taglines) need hero pieces that set the foundation for what the campaign is all about. These are developed early on with the campaign concept.

Ancillary Creative
From there, it’s important to think about how the ethos of the campaign can come to life through other content. A strong concept with be multi-dimensional and should have the ability to be infused throughout messaging and creative concepts well beyond the hero pieces. Make sure creative is molded for the platform; this shouldn’t be a one-size-fits all.

Channel Tactics + Executions
In addition to creative and concepts, it’s important to think about other tactics that can help bring the campaign (and tagline) to life. Whether it’sa Snapchat filter, hashtag emoji or a fan-engagement play, these tactics play an important role in hammering the message home.

Distribution + Media Plan
You can’t have a content strategy without a distribution strategy. Make sure you think about your distribution plan, well beyond the organic piece.

Always, Map Back 
And, as a reminder, make sure the everything maps back to the larger picture: The campaign concept.


Long story short, I think taglines have their place in sports as long as there is a purpose. They aren’t necessary or mandatory. It’s up to every team to understand their objectives and priorities:

Christi makes a great point. Every team’s approach and strategy is different. It’s important to understand your why. 



If you do decide that a tagline is the right route for your team, make sure you do the foundational work. What are you trying to convey? How does the work map back to the larger picture?  A tagline is only as good as the concept and the work that surrounds it. But if done right, it can be extremely powerful.

What are your thoughts about taglines for teams? Yay or nay? I would love to hear your thoughts below!

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