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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Derrick

5 ways to be a brand-led brand in sport

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

Brand-led, purpose-led, values-led. You've probably heard one of these terms over the last two years as the pandemic exposed those brands, who without their product, had very little else in terms of an identity. Sport, of course, was one of this worst hit as live sport came to a stand-still and what was left could only be described as a scramble.


As brands came to terms with this, consultants like me were inundated with requests to create such brand-led brands. We were asked to define purposes, missions, values, brand ideas and personality's. From here, it was defining how this foundation would then shape the future sponsorship strategy, brand experience, product diversification and brand protection frameworks should the pandemic continue (or god-forbid another returns!). Sport brands have slowly realised that they need to be brand-led sport brands.


Today we're listing out five simple ways to transform your sport brand from product-led to brand-led:


1.Identify who you are

  • Your purpose - your reason to exist. What you're here to achieve. What does everything your brand and product ladder up to. How can you succinctly streamline your reason to be

  • Your values or how you and your people will achieve your purpose. Why should fans and future fans resonate with you? Why should your employees deliver for you?

  • Your unique selling point(s) - what sets you apart from your competitors here and across the world. Not just your product but your culture, your behaviours, your look-and-feel, your fans, your experience, whatever it might be

  • Your brand and product architecture: define this, and stick to it! One of the most frustrating things we see is brands going off piste with a sub-brand or product, meaning little-to-no payback to the masterbrand. Be consistent. Avoid the logo/brand soup.

2. Invest in your brand.

  • Too often brand is the forgotten piece or the 'tick box' whilst budget is diverted into marketing. The more you invest in your brand upfront, the less you have to spend across your business in the long run. Marketing budgets then reinforce your brand or activate it in hugely differentiated ways; no more budget going onto tactical 'always on' campaigns

  • With that, invest in a brand team. It's shocking how many sport brands don't have brand specialists employed. The pressure goes onto Marketing Managers who don't often have the necessary experience

  • Case study: Angel City FC are the first soccer brand to focus on their brand first, their game second; becoming a hugely valuable brand before any player has stepped foot on a pitch. Hoodies are being worn, social media followers are blowing up and athletes are gaining their own star power without their main product. Brand first, the rest will follow.

3. Diversify off the pitch

  • By investing in your brand and understanding who you are, you're in a position to diversify your product offerings.

  • Case study: The New York Yankees may be a baseball team but they're also a fashion brand meaning they don't have to rely solely on their on-pitch performance.

4. Have a long-term plan

  • By taking away the focus of winning as being the sign of success, you can create a long-term plan for your brand. Marketing plans shouldn't be about short-term gains but should be in long-term brand awareness and reinforcement to engage new audiences and create a pipeline of revenue opportunities in the coming years

  • Doing this will also help your sponsorship strategy, creating a clear field of like-minded brands that can reinforce who you are, your long-term goals and ultimately work with you to create incredible, unique innovations that set you apart.

5. Incorporate sustainability

  • Ask yourself, how can your brand be socially, economically and environmentally sustainable? Use your purpose to define actions, programmes and opportunities that activate it through the sustainability lens. Consumers today expect brands to be 'good', especially in the sustainability space but it must be authentic and ladder up to who you are.

It might feel like a mammoth task but by investing in creating a robust brand-led brand now will hold you in good stead for the future; pandemics or not!

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