What Marketers Can Learn About Branding from School Teams

7 Branding Elements School Teams Have

With the beginning of school, many football teams and cheerleaders are already on the field practicing. School mascots epitomize what branding at its best does. Marketers who want to build their brands should heed the lessons they offer.

7 Branding elements

School teams and cheerleaders have seven elements that build school pride and spirit. Marketers can adapt these factors to build their brands.

  1. Use an icon. Based on their team name, schools have a related logo to identify themselves. For example, it can be a tiger. Brands invest in building powerful icons. Advertising great Leo Burnett created brand icons like the Jolly Green Giant, the Marlboro Man, and Tony the Tiger.
  2. Have names that inspire. School have special names for their teams that support their school image. These names often evoke images of powerful beings. For example teams may be called the Vikings or Raiders. Similarly, marketers spend time developing product names. At their best, iconic brands become synonymous with the product such as Kleenex or Xerox.
  3. Use distinct colors. Colors play an important role for brands since they’re easily identifiable and readily associated with images. Students wear clothes in their school colors and will paint their faces using the team’s colors for big games of the season. Brands use colors as a shorthand form. Coca-Cola, the market leader, is red and Pepsi, the number two is blue, are the classic example.
  4. Have school mascots. They go through a vetting process where students prove that they’re the best at their sport. At school games, there’s often someone who dresses up in a larger-than-life costume.
  5. Sing school songs and cheers. Every school has its own songs and cheers that are used to get students and fans excited. Similarly, brands use special taglines, jingles or sounds. Any Windows user is used to its aural branding every time they boot up their computer.
  6. Wear distinctive clothing. Both school athletes and cheerleaders have uniforms in the school’s colors as well as special jackets with their names that set them apart. These items have value because only a limited number of students have them.  In the same way, service brands like FedEx and UPS have uniforms in their company colors. Brands for physical products use special packaging or labeling to set them apart. For example, the classic green coke bottle has a special shape to distinguish it from other colas.
  7. Make unique moves. Schools also use tailored cheers, handshakes and/or other actions to help identify and set them apart from other schools. For brands this translates to special ways of treating customers or other special services. Zappos’ service epitomizes this.

3 Branding benefits

Sports teams and cheerleaders help schools develop the following three benefits that marketers can use to brand their offerings.

  1. Provide identity. Through their sports teams and cheerleaders, schools give their students a sense of identity. This school personality is in contrast to its local rivals who often live in the next town over and use their own set of special attributes. Having a branded product or service assures consumers of a level of quality and provides basis for increased pricing.
  2. Create sense of belonging. Particularly in high school where students may feel alienated, team sports and overall school experience help give members a feeling of fitting in. Strong brands can provide a sense of community. For example, having the latest computer can make you  feel like you’re part of a elite group.
  3. Builds loyalty. The repetitive use of school colors and themes provide the basis for fellow students and alumni to support the school. Having loyal fans is like money in the bank for products and services since these customers tend to buy more, are resilient to lapses in service, and evangelize to their friends.

As the fall season revs up, take some time to think about how seamlessly these athletes and cheerleaders build their school’s brand. Then apply these lessons to your offering.

Are there any other ways that school athletes and cheerleaders build their organization’s brand? Please share your views in the comment section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

This column is dedicated to my older two nephews who played high school football.

Here are some related columns you may find useful.

Photo credit: Auburn Alumni Association via Flickr

Tags , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.