SOAP BOX: Sports branding has to keep the fans on your side

Apparently, consumers trust Kellogg’s Corn Flakes more than the police or Parliament. Research this week by the Henley Centre has demonstrated just how influential brands are, and marketers have discovered over the past 20 years that branding can be applied to almost anything.

Apparently, consumers trust Kellogg’s Corn Flakes more than the

police or Parliament. Research this week by the Henley Centre has

demonstrated just how influential brands are, and marketers have

discovered over the past 20 years that branding can be applied to almost

anything.



In the 80s, telecommunications and financial services were the big boom

areas, now it’s the turn of a far more unlikely sector - sport. Football

is leading the way. Merchandise, credit cards, branded events and, most

recently, a TV channel from Manchester United are stoking the fires of a

major trend. Even sports personalities are getting in on the act; Eric

Cantona, Damon Hill and Alan Shearer have registered themselves as

trademarks.



Inevitably, marketers will be excited at the opportunity - what other

product has such a massive and often international following? Sport

seems to be an untapped goldmine, a ready-made consumer base ripe for

the taking. For instance, brand-stretch king Richard Branson has taken

over the London Broncos and the entry of rugby to the fray has become a

compulsive soap through the TV documentary charting the triumphs and

tragedies of Bath Rugby plc.



But the big question is how far can the whole process be taken without

the brand snapping? If you can have a TV channel and Premiership milk

and you can create a line of clothing, maybe you could have package

holidays or even a pension scheme. There is a risk that the brand will

take one step too far away from its core personality and lose its

relevance. Is a Ryan Giggs duvet cover good branding or an

over-extension?



Then there is the problem of branding without destroying. Sport is not

like an FMCG product. It requires sensitivity from marketers if branding

is not to distort the chemistry between the fan and the game. Anyone who

doubts that fans resent manipulation of their loyalty need look no

further than the reaction to clubs changing their strips with increasing

frequency.



But perhaps the greatest challenge for the marketer is the fact that

sport does not have the consistency that has become a pre-requisite for

a successful brand which grows steadily and without major trauma. Core

equities for a football club may be logically based on values such as

excellence, premiumness and winning. So, how do you build in the

resilience to cope with setbacks?



The City is notoriously unforgiving of failure and the drive for sports

branding is coming from investors’ desire to make sport feel more like

predictable FMCG brands. In essence, brands say ’quality guaranteed’,

but the very nature of sport means that it can never duplicate this

offer, at least at club level.



Perhaps the greatest opportunity will prove to be with the events

themselves which have enormous potential - as witnessed by UEFA

Champions League, Wimbledon or Formula 1. Whatever happens it will

certainly test the mettle of marketers to ensure that brand cynicism

doesn’t overtake sport.



Discussion

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now

Latest

Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer
Mumsnet admits users' emails and passwords accessed via Heartbleed bug
Thetrainline.com backs 'rubbish' mobile app with TV ad
Powerade launches global World Cup campaign
Burberry's flagship Shanghai store facade responds to weather changes
Subway considers taking fast food to fast lane with F1 sponsorship
Ikea splurges 'grey' Belgium with colour
Grim outlook for Tesco boss Philip Clarke ahead of expected profits fall
Thomson to create first crowd-sourced wedding decided by Facebook fans
Currency wars meets origami in Alpari FX trading ad campaign
Amazon rumoured to launch 3D smartphone in September
Facebook to allow European users to store and transfer money on site, claims report
Unilever pilots multi-brand advertising with YouTube beauty channel
Lego, Coca-Cola, Net-a-Porter, Bitcoin and AOL: the digitally creative brands
Dove tries to tell women their beauty is innate through placebo patches
Wonga faces social media storm after forcing Twitter to remove satirical material
Spotify tells the stories of relationships with music