Here in Texas, we are surrounded by cattle. Back in the days of the wild west, our area was part of the cattle driving scene. Hundreds of cowboys and thousands of cattle traveled the same trails at the same time. How did they distinguish between their cattle and someone else’s property? Easy, the brand! One of the best ways to set apart your athletic program from all the rest is through a comprehensive branding campaign.
We talked in our last post about uniforms. However, your brand is more than just how you look. Your brand is the concept that others associate with your athletic department.
Developing your athletic brand is a must. If you don’t consciously develop a brand, then one will develop on its own.
Get the right message out about your athletic department today! Here are some thoughts about branding.
So much can be said about your logo. We’re not talking about your mascot (because let’s face it you’re probably the Eagles, Knights, Warriors, Lions, or some derivative of those four).
Your logo is the first impression of your athletic department in the community.
Mistakes that Christian schools make with their logos:
- too old, if it was designed more than ten years ago, then it’s time to upgrade
- too official, lots of Christian schools have a school crest looking thing, which is fine, but it doesn’t work for your athletic department
- too varied, if you haven’t consciously branded your program, then you probably have about five different mascot logos floating around on stationery, t-shirts, and signs
- too similar, if you have a fairly popular mascot, then you need to make sure your logo is distinct
At VBA, we’re the Patriots (another common one, I know). When I arrived, we were using the New England Patriot mascot that we had adapted to fit our needs. (We actually have expressed, written consent from the NFL to use this. From our research you can use professional and college mascots as long as you are not selling products under the misconception that they are products of that organization)
We continue to use the “Patriot head” (as it is affectionately known) on some things. However, we also began using the Villanova “V” as the major logo for our athletic department. The “V” has also bled over onto some official school things.
Having a “letter logo” and a “mascot logo” is a good practice.
Make sure that these two logos are different enough, but similar. Use them frequently.
Much like our article on uniforms, you want to make sure that your school athletic clothing and apparel is uniform and in consistency with your branding program.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to associate with a particular athletic company. Most Christian schools are too small to be officially sponsored by a national brand. However, staying consistent with a particular provider gives the appearance of high level athletics.
At VBA, all of our athletic apparel is done through Adidas. If you’re looking at any of our clothing, you’re going to see three stripes somewhere. It looks really good when we roll into a gym with our teams and our fans in Adidas.
Your school families are also more likely to wear school athletic clothing out and about if it has a more professional look.
A national brand like Adidas, Under Armour, or Nike can give your brand that extra look of class.
Using these companies is not as pricy as you might think. All of them have recognized the value of dealing with high schools and have tailored many of their products to fit high school needs.
Branding is not just the appearance of your athletic department, but it’s also the perception that people associate with it.
When you see the Under Armour logo, what do you think of? Chances are you think of toughness and hard work. Under Armour has accomplished this through all of their branding campaigns and commercials.
You don’t have to run commercials during the super bowl in order to achieve this. You can do this through the look of your brand.
Since we’re still the “little brother” in our area when it comes to competing schools, we try to associate our athletic brand with concepts like “developing” and “up and coming.” We accomplish this by using athletic department themes and slogans that we frequently reference in our literature and on social media.
Extra Thoughts on Branding
It helps if you provide something for free to families in your athletic department that will help enhance your athletic brand in the community. Back window car decals, bumper stickers, t-shirts, and many other promotional items are inexpensive and effective in getting your brand out there.
Don’t spend too much time on appearance and not enough time on product. This is an easy trap to fall into.
Make sure, most importantly that you’re athletes and families back up the message that your brand is trying to advertise.
If you draw people in with your attractive brand, you want to keep them with a worthwhile experience.
Is your athletic department branding a mess? Do you have multiple logos, brands, and looks? Do you feel like it would take too much to change it now?
Don’t worry, it’s never too late to start! In some ways, you’re in a better position. If you start the next school year with an organized branding program, you will generate a new excitement about your programs.
Unveil a new logo. Announce an allegiance to a certain athletic brand. Associate your program with a concept. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.
Need examples of how to brand? As much as it pains me to say it (as a PCC grad),
Bob Jones University launched its athletic program in 2011-2012 and they have been killing it as far as branding goes.
BJU has an established athletic logo, they have associated with a national brand (Adidas), and they have a student body and faculty that has embraced their concept.
Cruise their athletic blog and check out their athletic staff on twitter. It’s very uniform and professional. Almost makes me want to be a Bruin… almost. 🙂
For other thoughts on branding your athletic department, check out this article from Coach and Athletic Director.
What have you and your athletic program done in order to brand yourself in the community?