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The importance of a name and logo in sport branding

Emotional equity also plays a role when sport entities strive to brand or re-brand themselves. Take a look at the citation below:

“In February 1927, Toronto’s struggling NHL franchise, the St Patrick’s, was sold to an investor group doing business as the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club, Limited. Managing partner Conn Smythe made two quick and significant decisions. The first was to secure a well-known war hero as board chairman, to ‘burnish the club’s image’ (Ross, 2008, p. 163). The second was to use a new crest on the team sweaters – a maple leaf similar to that which had adorned Canada’s gold medal-winning 1924 Olympic hockey team. Smythe later recalled (Smythe and Young, 1981, p. 86) that he knew the leaf ‘meant something across Canada.’ Today’s sport marketers would say that Smythe was engaged in ‘branding’ his team with people and symbols that would increase name recognition, perceived product quality, emotion, and loyalty among his fan base. In marketing jargon, he would increase his ‘brand equity’.” (Hardy et al., 2012, p. 482)

 

Reflecting on the above-mentioned citation, it strucks me that sport branding is an ‘old’ discipline. At the same time, it comes to mind that sport branding is an essential part of the process when sport entities want to distinguish themselves from competitors. The significance of a name and logo are key assets when sport entities strive to build strong relationships with their fans. Fans generate additional buzz around the sport entity and thus facilitate revenue streams through various business stands, e.g. merchandise sales, ticket sales etc. In that regard, sport entities should consider whether or not the name and logo build a clear bridge and hence accommodate a sound relationship between the entity and its commercial stakeholders (fans, media, sponsors etc.)?

With that in mind, the name and logo should not be ‘too edgy’, or ‘too intangible’. All central business segments must have an understandable link to the sport entity. In the sport entity’s positioning, the name and logo must gain positive attention, i.e. “a brand has a name reflecting an organization that stands behind the offering” (Aaker, 2011, p. 26). In that regard, the name is more imperative than the logo due to the fact that the latter is easier to change and that the name most often acquire more exposure (e.g. via media coverage). The ‘emotional equity’ comes into play when the name and/or logo apply the ‘sentiment’ that there is a connection between the sport entity’s name and/or logo and the home area’s story, spirit and nature, i.e. the Colorado Rockies (Denver, the US), the New England Patriots (Boston, the US), FC Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain), or FC Copenhagen (Copenhagen, Denmark). In general, these branding lessons are vital when a sport entity finds itself in an initiating-stage or a re-branding process – especially if the entity does not have ‘the star power’ or ‘sporting quality’ to back up the process.

Though, from a long-term branding perspective, it is key that the team achieves some sporting success as well because that is what professional sport is all about. In Denmark, Vejle Boldklub was a club with great traditions. The club changes its name to Vejle Boldklub Kolding after a merger/collaboration with Kolding in 2011. In 2013, the Danish FA (DBU) approved that the club could change its name again, this time to VB Alliancen. This scenario displays the fact that branding is experiential in nature and that ‘sporting success’ and ‘sporting traditions’ over a long period of time matter. During this period of re-naming, the club has found itself in a turbulent period without the necessary ‘sporting success’ to manifest the names and thus the club’s initiative seems somewhat lame measured against the club’s visionary plans. If the process were supported by success on the pitch and in the community, the story would probably have painted a different picture. So my question to them is why they changed the name but at the same time I recall that it is always easy to act as a ‘Monday morning quarterback’? Though, sport is to some extent primitive in the way that ‘winning matters’ and Nike recently applied the slogan ‘winning takes care of everything’ in relation to its endorsement deal with Tiger Woods. That stunt was quite ‘edgy’ but rhetoric in the sense that the world of sports tend to find it easier to forgive ‘bad behavior’ when sport brands blur this negative behavior by starting a new winning streak.

My conclusion is that a name and a logo are important in sport branding. Recently, we saw it when more than 16,000 fans of the English football club Everton protested against the club’s new crest, click here for more info. Still, this part of the branding process cannot be left alone. Sport branding is also about ‘other actions’, i.e. how the brand is cultivated. In other words, the sport entity must grow a strong society around the brand. The German club FC St. Pauli has been successful in doing so although the club is not playing at the best stage in German football. This example shows that a sport brand is a dynamic and living creature, which interacts with its surroundings, i.e. how the public perceives the brand and what it gives back to the society around it are important factors.

In 2007 Michael Oriard published his third volume of football history: Brand NFL. His introduction ended with a driving question: ‘When the NFL becomes a ‘product’ and ‘brand,’ is it different as a sport?’ (Oriard, 2007, p. 9). One might ask in return, when was the NFL anything other than a product and a brand? A football game may be an ephemeral, inconsistent, and intangible experience for the players, coaches, officials, andspectators who create it, but it is still a product to be sold and bought (Mullin et al., 2007). While NFL magnates did not start using the term ‘brand’ until the 1990s, as Oriard (2007, pp. 175-209) carefully shows, their prior actions and strategies in the management of team colors, images, symbols, and names certainly fit within the realm of brand theory.”  (Hardy et al., 2011, pp. 484-485)

 

In the above-mentioned, you will see that  the NFL is a commercial money train and thus a powerful brand and the importance of names and logos have been carefully implemented in the branding process of the league’s teams, i.e. just another example reflecting that names matter (Ries & Ries, 2004, p. 5).

Check the video below to watch an interesting debate about the name of a team in sports:

 

Sources:

Aaker, D. A. (2011). Brand relevance: making competitors irrelevant. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco, California, the US.

Hardy, S., Norman, B., & Sceery, S. (2012). “Toward a history of sport branding”. Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, 4(4), pp. 482-509.

Mullin, B.J., Hardy, S. and Sutton, W.A. (2007), Sport Marketing, 3rd ed., Human Kinetics, Champaign, Illinois, the US.

Oriard, M. (2007), Brand NFL: Making and Selling America’s Favorite Sport, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the US.

Ries, A. and Ries, L. (2004), The Origin of Brands, Harper Business, New York, New York, the US..

Ross, J.A. (2008), “Hockey capital: commerce, culture, and the National Hockey League, 1917-1967”, PhD dissertation, University of Western Ontario, London.

Smythe, C. and Young, S. (1981), Conn Smythe: If You Can’t Beat ’Em in the Alley, McClelland and Stewart, Toronto.

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