Harnessing brand equity while creating a brand that is globally relevant is a challenge for any brand, let alone a sports team.
Brand equity isn’t easily come by, it’s the result of years (if not decades) of your brand’s life and history within the sport, with the fans and against your opponents, culminating in brand recognition and deeply held connection.
Sports fans aren’t just loyal, they are the definition of brand loyalty. They live and breathe the team, more often than not, taking any change to the brand personally. As seen during the rebrands of Leeds United and Everton the revolt of the die-hard fan can be a tough pill to swallow and one that many sports brands aren’t willing to take the risk with.
Unsurprising as sports brands have a long history of miss-steps when undertaking a rebrand, not least when seeking to appeal to new audiences (think the Cardiff City ‘Bluebirds’ turning red when new owner Vincent Tan wanted to appeal to Chinese Malay audiences).
Today a number of key factors are influencing the need for teams to consider their brand in a more global environment.
1 – The growth of sports in previously untapped markets
From the growth of ‘soccer’ in the USA to the increase in the NFL’s fan base overseas, many brands are no longer reaching solely ‘hometown’ or domestic audiences.
2 – Changes in sports consumption leading the way in the globalisation of sports brands
From streaming services (Netflix / Amazon and the like) entering the competitive world of sports broadcasting to social media and other on-demand platforms making sports viewing more accessible.
With such significant changes to the environment brands are operating in, it is no longer possible to ignore the need to strike the balance between the history and equity of your brand and the growing requirement to create something that has a broad appeal and is ready for the digital age.
While potential pitfalls exist, those who jump in feet first and forge the way for a more modern take on their brand reap the rewards. Take Juventus, whose 2017 rebrand was not without its own controversy (read: fan uproar), however from a brand modernisation standpoint and a smart reimagining of the brand equity, the rebrand achieved on both fronts.
Utilising the much-loved black and white pallet as the basis of the brand ensured a retained connection to the club’s history, while the move away from the traditional crest approach for the logo to the modern, bold, statement letter mark transformed the club’s brand into one ready for the future.
Although the fans took some convincing on the dramatic shift in the brand look, there is no denying that the carefully crafted mark provides flexibility and options across the ever-growing range of brand experiences. Add in the bespoke typeface that comes to life across a variety of applications and you have a standout, engaging and masterful brand to propel the team forward.
So it is clear, there is no denying that brand equity is powerful and not to be ignored when considering a rebrand, however, the aforementioned changes to the globalisation of sports mean that the desire to maintain your existing brand may pale in insignificance when faced with the prospect of growing your fan base and reaching far-flung parts of the globe.
Take our work for Eurovision Baku for example.
While the link between Eurovision and sports brands may not be instantly obvious, there are parallels between the brand equity held by a sports team and that of the 67-year-old pan-European singing competition with a global audience.
As per the rules of the competition, the song contest moves around, with the previous year’s winner hosting the next event. Following their first win in 2011, Azerbaijan we due to host the 2012 contest for the first time.
Keen to raise the profile of the lesser-known nation, the brief had a single aim, to reflect the unique culture and heritage of the nation while retaining the equity held by the Eurovision brand.
Important to note is the fanatic nature of Eurovision fans. Although home nation support for individual entries is strong, the contest has a life of its own with a cult following and Eurovision parties held across the world on the night of the competition. This was a key consideration when designing the brand identity for Baku, balancing the much-loved Eurovision brand with the desire for the host nation to shine.
Known as The Land of Fire, Azerbaijan’s nickname provided a creative gift, giving us the perfect inspiration and story to help capture the energy and passion expected by Eurovision fans. Coupled with the traditional Azerbaijani pattern, the playful blazing bonfire identity provided energy and dynamism that married seamlessly with the Eurovision brand and delivering for both stakeholder groups.
Our approach to Eurovision is a prime example of how a sensitive branding approach can be taken, one that leverages the existing brand equity while creating something new that reaches new audiences.
But how do I utilise this newfound knowledge we hear you say? Our checklist will help those considering whether a rebrand (or brand evolution) is required and how to kick start the process for success:
– Consider where your brand might need to hold space in the future not just today – online, in person, in the metaverse, in another country, on another planet? Does your brand speak to those new spaces?
– Consider the ambition for your brand, are you just a sports team or are you something more than that?
– Are you prepared for the fact that not everybody will love the changes you make?
– Are you ready to be brave?
Ready to start the rebranding process or keen to speak to us about how Turquoise might be able to help propel your brand into the future? Get in touch.