Many successful sports teams have great brand attributes.
I love sports. Always have. I grew up playing baseball, football, tennis, swimming. My interest in golf developed later in life. Now, I’m downright obsessed. I’m a big fan, too, especially of pro and college sports. What I’ve noticed is that some of the strongest branding on earth is in the athletic arena.
Whether they knew it or not, some of the most successful coaches have built amazing brands, using some of the same tactics businesses use. Consistency, an absolute brand commandment, was second nature to UCLA’s John Wooden – arguably the greatest college basketball coach of all time, with 10 national championships to his credit.
Wooden was such a stickler for details, he taught incoming freshmen the right way to lace their shoes. His Practice Rule #8 was “Keep a neat practice appearance with shirt tails in, socks pulled up, and hair cut short” (although his hair rule was relaxed a bit in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s).
Discipline: Essential to all brands
The brand essence of Wooden’s UCLA teams was precision, efficiency, equal parts confidence and humility, and laser-beam focus.
Of course, the team logo, colors, typeface, and uniform was all presented consistently, accurately, and religiously.
“Repetition, repetition, repetition” is a powerful mantra in sports, and it’s just as powerful in branding.
A consummate brand master? Nick Saban
These days, Alabama football coach Nick Saban is one of sport’s reigning brand masters. Love him or hate him, whether your allegiance is to the Crimson Tide or to the Maize and Blue, you have to admire the way Saban watches over his program, which is a lot like the best marketers police their brands. Nike may have Alabama’s athletic apparel contract, but Nike’s talented design staff hasn’t been able to “play” with the Alabama brand like they have with other college football programs’.
For every Alabama football game and for every Alabama football player, the shoes are standard-issue black. Socks are plain white. Uniforms are the same every Saturday. No special-edition jerseys or “throwback” uniforms, ever. Saban’s team goes by the book, his book, and the Alabama football brand is ironclad because of it.
It’s as if he’s saying, “This isn’t a fashion show, it’s football.”
His critics find him cold and calculating, devoid of a sense of humor.
But it’s his way or the highway. And it works.
His brand messaging is also unequivocal. Work hard. Fulfill your specific responsibilities on the field. When you excel, there will be no excessive celebrations. Don’t make mistakes when the other team will make them for you. Never show up the opposition, or give them extra motivation by being outspoken.
Successful brands don’t compromise.
Like sports teams, great business brands – including OEM automotive supplier brands – are built on disciplined, consistent practice. Brand guidelines are simply non-negotiable.
The logo? It’s sacred, always presented the same, every time, never modified, without any other elements infringing upon it.
Corporate colors? Always precise, never tinted or tainted.
Typography? Thou shalt use the corporate type, period.
Brand messaging? Make your brand voice heard, again and again and again.
The extraneous stuff? Eliminate it.
And soon, you’ll have yourself a winner.