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

Microsoft profits boosted by cloud computing drive
Oasis #springasmile digital campaign gets people doing good deeds
Coca-Cola: 'Don't approach bloggers with a fait accompli'
Tesco CMO Matt Atkinson: 'It is so important not to stereotype mothers'
McDonald's gives Ronald a new look ahead of global 'Fun times' social media push
In pictures: BrewDog opens first craft beer shop BottleDog for 'beer aficionados'
Facebook ad revenue leaps $1bn as it invests in targeting
Malteser or Maltesers? Mars takes Hershey trademark dispute to court
Apple Q2 profits top $10bn as iPhone sales soar
Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers