We Need An Emphasis On “Brand” In Sports

What does a team (or league) stand for beyond the scores? This, I believe, is one of the most important questions marketers in this industry should be asking right now.

In a time where it’s easier than ever to activate, we have lost a bit of marketing magic. Teams push, sell, scream and beg for a transaction. 

The focus has become too centered around the final product; the game. Marketing, especially with digital, has become about scores, big plays and “winning the internet”. 

The scores and the highlights are part of a team’s story of course, but they should be a piece of the puzzle and not the sole focus. Otherwise, there’s little distinction between team A and team B beyond performance. The result is a sea of sameness among sports teams. 

More than ever, we need an emphasis on “brand” in sports. We need to move beyond the idea of “just a team” and into the idea of “a powerful brand”. 

Sports are not just a game. They are an emotional vehicle for people that provide community, distraction, hope and belief. This might sound cheesy, but it’s true. People don’t get tattoos of their favorite team because of the points scored. They get a tattoo because it means so much more.

This video below from Steve Jobs on their Think Different campaign captures the essence of what brand marketing is about. As Steve says, it’s about values. It’s about being clear what your brand stands for and what you want consumers to take away about it. 

More than that though, Steve nails it when he says “even a great brand needs investments and caring if it’s going to retain its relevance and vitality”.  It’s this idea that really hits home with sports.

Sports is an industry where people genuinely care about the product. We’re lucky in that regards. But sports have taken for granted the emotional connection fans have to teams, the game, etc. It’s short-sighted to not invest in a team as a brand. 

In a world where consumers have more choices and distractions than ever, the emotional connection with a team matters. The intangibles — beyond the scores — are what separates your product from every other entertainment option.

What makes a team different from the next? What are the values associated with the teams, ones so deeply rooted that fans feel proud to be associated with it?

It’s time to start defining teams as brands beyond the scores, beyond the court, beyond the field. Because in the long run, the “it factor” and that emotional connection … it matters.

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  1. Wouldn’t every team just promote the same values ie “we care about being a positive influence in the community” ? Are there any specific teams that promote different values?

  2. This is really great.

    I talk about brand a lot, especially in sports.

    Somewhere along the line, the brand in sports started to get watered down so much and the emotional, meaningful connection between team and fan was ruptured.

    If I am being truthful, the brands that are clear and definitive are fewer and further between, and it hurts the team, the players, and the sport.

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