We ran a student blog contest among college students and are happy to announce the winner was Kevin Flanagan of UNCG. He wrote a blog on branding among professional sports teams. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
By Guest Blogger: Kevin Flanagan, Class of 2015 at UNCG
Brand identity is a delicate topic in today’s professional sports. A brand based around a winning team is a good start, but an organization also requires personality to create a deeper bond with the consumer. A sports team that performs well does not always correlate to a lovable identity, so this is where brand management is critical to maintain fans and attract new ones.
A detailed example deals with the Boston Red Sox and my observations about their brand management since 2004 when the team was portrayed as the underdog to the New York Yankees. A championship in 2004 helped skyrocket the team’s sales because the Red Sox brand was based around their “misfit,” even “idiot” reputation. They were supposedly a down-to-earth, blue-collar team who defeated their counterpart, the Yankees, on their way to the World Series while spending far less money. There was nothing to dislike about the Red Sox and this is why fan population exponentially increased.
The team’s brass maintained this brand through another championship in 2007 because they continued to build “hustler” filled clubs that outdid the sum of their parts. Another selling point by this time was that they were the smart team. Their general manager was deemed genius for maintaining a flurry of excellent minor leaguers while conservatively spending on free agents.
After 2007, their brand began to flop. Their emblematic team dipped in performance and management panicked: they overpaid new players and fans compared the Sox to the Yankees for their spending sprees. Red Sox ownership tried signing “sexy,” big name ballplayers that commanded huge contracts but were long-term problems instead of solutions. Their brand struggled through 2012 because competing with the Yankee brand was worse than being its own entity like 2004-2007.
The Yankees own the big spending, All-Star team brand in baseball, and the Red Sox lost their brand identity and some of their consumers because of their attempted mimicry. Luckily, management realized their mistakes in time for a successful 2013 revamp and reignited the 2004-2007 brand identity. For even more profits after going back to the “dirt dog” brand of baseball, the team won the championship again in 2013. The Red Sox brand is once again prosperous, iconic, and unique.