Sports teams straddle the line of brand and entertainer, with most of their success depending on the unpredictable rise and fall of the season. They can always depend on their core band of brand loyalists to show up rain or shine, but is there a way to appeal to fair-weather fans on a cloudy day?
In this episode of Branding Bites, Shawn and Kacha look at teams who have managed to keep the excitement alive regardless of their win-loss record, and share insight on strengthening the relationship with your audience through rough times.
Rather read than watch? Check out the transcript below!
Kacha: Hi everybody, and welcome to Branding Bites. My name is Kacha, I am the executive creative here at Skidmore Studio.
Shawn: Hi, I’m Shawn, the design director, and hey there sports brands, have we got a show for you.
Kacha: Yes we do sports brands. So we’re talking about sports today.
Shawn: We are.
Kacha: And not just sports, we’re talking about connecting your sport or your sports brand, or your sports team with the right audience, right?
Kacha: It’s always important, always critical. We were working with an MLB team.
Shawn: Which MLB team? Was it a Detroit team?
Kacha: No, it was not a Detroit, although it was a team that had a similar record, less than .500.
Shawn: They’re not going to be playing this October?
Kacha: They’re not playing this October. So they were struggling to get people to the ballpark, simply because they’re just not necessarily a winning team. Specifically with an audience, millennials, young professionals who are looking at them merely as a ballpark, rather than something fun and a night out. We did a lot of focus groups in the city, with the team, and with this audience and realized that the things that the ballpark was providing, that the team could provide, a night out, entertainment, good food, good drink, that message just wasn’t making it and wasn’t resonating with this particular audience.
Shawn: And that’s a problem for a losing team.
Kacha: Yeah, you’ve got to find other good ways to get that audience and attract them to your space. Not only that, you have to communicate that, and that was really just a communications challenge we worked with them on. It reminds me of something you brought up the other day, the Dayton Dragons.
Shawn: Yeah, great, not even minor league, they’re not even triple-A ball, they’re I think class A. They’ve sold out I think 18 straight years.
Kacha: 1242 plus games, something like that.
Shawn: It’s incredible.
Kacha: Why does a not even minor league, not winning team sell out games every game, every year? Simply because they have delivered every single time on quality, family entertainment, for a Midwestern values, Dayton, Ohio town.
Shawn: Absolutely. I feel like they haven’t targeted an audience, so much as they’ve just built a home for fans, which is such a cool concept. No crazy sponsorships. Their only tapping into things that really connect with the people who are coming, which is brilliant?
Kacha: They’ve got like the Golden Oldies, a senior’s choir. They do toddler races, which is exactly what you think it is.
Shawn: Have the old people and the really young people covered.
Kacha: They’re racing and singing all at the same time, it’s a great time for families. So good on them. Always know your audience right. Just really important.
Shawn: That’s a key we keep hitting on, isn’t it?
Kacha: Yeah. We’ve been talking a working with a lot of sports brands recently and manufacturers of sports products, so we’ve been looking at brands in sports over the last period of time, like the last hundred years. I challenged Shawn with, can you share with us insights over the last hundred years of sports in 60 seconds?
Shawn: I think I can do it in about 15.
Kacha: Okay, I want to see this. What do you got?
Shawn: We’ve got an ad from the turn of the century, early turn of the century. Wilson, it’s all about the product.
Kacha: Yeah, it’s just products.
Shawn: Mid-century, all about how the product makes you better.
Kacha: Okay, I see.
Shawn: Late 70’s, early 80’s-
Shawn: All about how the pros use the product.
Kacha: So we’re seeing this evolution of how we’re perceiving ourselves.
Shawn: And something you’ve probably seen a lot of today, all about you as the product. I don’t even know what to look for, for the product.
Shawn: They know their audience. This is not for me. I’m not a soccer player. I think the product is a shoe.
Kacha: It is.
Shawn: But the audience knows exactly what it is, which is key.
Kacha: Yeah, 100%. So sports markers, sports branders, as you’re communicating, realize that right now audiences in sport, they care about emotion, and they care about how it makes them feel. It’s kind of narcissistic, but it’s putting the athlete at the center.
Shawn: Absolutely. It works, and it resonates.
Kacha: 100%. Now’s the time on the show when we do Bittie Bites, and Bittie Bites are when we pull out of the magical envelop, little bits and pieces in branding and marketing over the past couple of weeks, and give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down. What do you got this week?
Shawn: Yeah. Burger King, “Getting fired really sucks, but getting a free Whopper doesn’t.”
Kacha: Whopper severance. I hate this.
Kacha: Because I think it’s so messed up to put this tragic moment in your life against, “Oh I get a Whopper?” How are you lining these things up. Hate it.
Shawn: I love it. I think it’s fun.
Shawn: It’s fun and light. You need that when you get fired.
Kacha: That might be true.
Shawn: All right, this one I love. I shouldn’t say too much. Ikea.
Kacha: Oh, it’s the Ikea, the covers right?
Kacha: Ikea’s giving you PDFs of covers, fake covers that you can put on their catalog so that you can keep it from being stolen by other people.
Shawn: It’s fun and dumb. It’s everything you don’t get from most furniture places. I love it, brilliant.
Kacha: Super on brand for Ikea.
Shawn: Super. Okay, Pizza Hut, box art, three-dimensional box art.
Kacha: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Shawn: What are they illustrating?
Kacha: They’re illustrating a really bad deliveries that went south and just really crazy delivery stories. I love the execution. I think it’s beautiful. I hate the end product because there’s only like six of them that were made, so how does anybody actually appreciate this thing.
Shawn: I think this is beautiful. I think it’s going to float around on Pinterest for a while, just for the art. I don’t think it really has a solid message, but it’s pretty to look at. I think it’s going to linger as just an art object, which is ultimately great for the brand.
Kacha: Okay, cool.
Shawn: We got one more, and it’s, “Netflix is a joke.”
Kacha: Yeah, okay. You go first.
Shawn: I hate it.
Kacha: I hate it also.
Shawn: I don’t know where to go with that.
Kacha: I don’t either. It’s like, “Oh, Netflix is a joke.” Okay, sure you’re introducing comedy, but just to put that up is very self-deprecating and degrading of the brand. You’re not really doing anything helpful for yourself.
Shawn: Long way to go for a joke.
Kacha: Nope, don’t dig. All right, cool. This has been fun. This has been Branding Bites for this week. As always, if you have questions or thoughts, hit us up at Skidmore Studio on Twitter, we’ll be happy to talk to you. Til next time.
Shawn: See ya.