Brand Positioning

What can we learn from Sports Brands? #33 – The Brand

As legend has it, a gaggle of players was assembled in the locker room awaiting the start of the NBA All-Star game's three-point shooting contest when Larry Bird walked in. “So,” he said with a broad grin, “who’s playing for second?” Perhaps as much as his basketball acumen–he did indeed go on to win the three-point shooting contest that day– the predicate for Larry the Legend’s iconic brand was his swagger. It was an unlikely swagger: in a world of fast, agile black men who could seemingly jump out of the gym, Bird was a lumbering white guy who might not have been able to clear a shoe box in a single bound. The “Hick from French Lick” [...]

What can we learn from Sports Brands? The Packers – The Brand

A 2017 survey by the number-crunching website Five Thirty Eight found that the most beloved team in the NFL is not the Dallas Cowboys, or New England Patriots, the San Francisco 49ers or the New York Giants. It is, by a fairly wide margin, the team in the league’s tiniest market:  the Green Bay Packers. With a population of 105,0000–you could actually squeeze the entire city into the University of Michigan football stadium and still have seats left over– Green Bay clearly punches above its weight when it comes to its fan base. Is it the Green and Gold colors, or the 13 NFL championships dating back to 1929, or its legendary tough-as-nails coach, Vince Lombardi, who seemed sent [...]

What can we learn from Sports Brands? #23 – The Brand

When LeBron James played for the Miami Heat, a man walked into a San Francisco bar one afternoon to catch an NBA game, sidling up next to a woman who appeared to be in her 60s. Miami was losing and the woman mentioned that she was from Cleveland, but there was something in the way she said it that left the man with the distinct impression that she was among the Cleveland fans left embittered by the “King’s” move from Ohio to South Beach. As the Heat mounted a comeback,  however, the woman became increasingly animated, raising her fists triumphantly in the air and exclaiming “Yes!” when LeBron hit a clutch shot.  Amused, the man asked the woman: “I [...]

What can we learn from Sports Brands? #3 – The Brand

“Practice?” begins perhaps the most famous rant in history. “We're sitting here … I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we're in here talking about practice. I mean, listen, we're talking about practice. Not a game. Not a game. Not a game. We're talking about practice. Not a game. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it's my last. Not the game. We're talking about practice, man.” The retired professional basketball player Allen Iverson may have been the most unique brand in marketing history. With his slight build, cornrows, ubiquitous tattoos, and rakish charm, Iverson’s uniquely authentic brand is equal parts Tupac and Peter Pan. He would neither give [...]

What can we learn from Sports Brands? #5 – The Brand

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you, With his bantamweight’s physique, and graceful gait,  Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio–better known as a Joltin’ Joe–was the New York Yankees center fielder between 1936 and 1951. The son of an immigrant San Francisco fisherman, and Marilyn Monroe’s second husband, the Hall of Famer was also a symbol of America’s halcyon days before the country erupted in tribal clashes and civil unrest in the 1960s. That iconic quality made DiMaggio not just a lyrical touchstone for Simon and Garfinkel’s soundtrack for the movie, The Graduate, but also a uniquely successful brand in American marketing history. He hawked a New York bank, Bowery Savings and Loan, Wheaties, and [...]

Serena – The Brand

“If you were a tennis player, who would you want to be like?” an unseen interviewer asks a young gap-toothed Serena Williams. The Gatorade commercial then goes on to document the prodigy’s spectacular career, its breathtaking triumphs and heartbreaking defeats and, mostly, the grace with which she has handled being one of the most celebrated–and criticized– athletes in American history. The commercial returns to a beaming Williams, who finally responds; “Well, I’d kind of like everybody to be like me.” It is a glorious answer, and the capstone to a transcendent career. In the world of brand marketing, there has never been anyone quite like Serena Williams, the winner of 23 Grand Slams, who has sold everything from Gatorade [...]

What can we learn from Sports Brands? #7 – The Brand

Similar to Joe DiMaggio’s, the former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is tall and  lean, with the effortless gait– and velocity– of a gazelle. But Kaepernick’s Nike ad campaign, introduced on the opening weekend of the NFL’s 2018 season, is as jarring as DiMaggio’s Mr.Coffee commercials were reassuring. With his billowing Afro and a black turtleneck sweater, Kaepernick appears on screen, resembling your uncle only if your uncle was Huey Newton, his voice narrating a script that urges the audience to build a world that is the equal of their dreams. The tagline is a reference to Kaepernick’s NFL career, aborted by his peaceful protests against police violence “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The controversial ad [...]

The Yankees – The Brand

“Being a New York Yankees fan,” the comedian Doug Stanhope has quipped,”is like going to a casino and cheering for the house to win.” If the Green Bay Packers are the underdog America loves to cheer for the Yankees are a soap opera of celebrity dysfunction, a professional sports team tightly controlled by a ruthless, brawling owner and his son for two generations. It likely would never play in Peoria, but somehow, in the city so nice they named it twice,the New York Yankees are a brand like no other. You love them,or you hate them, but one way or another, the Yankee pinstripes inspires white-hot passions in almost every baseball fan. The Bronx bombers brand is based in [...]

What can we learn from Sports Brands? #45 – The Brand

The story, perhaps apocryphal, goes something like this. At the height of his fame in the early 1990s, Michael Jordan’s mother was exhorting her son to endorse the Democrats’ African-American nominee for North Carolina’s U.S. Senate seat, held, at the time, by the polarizing Republican, Jesse Helms. Jordan declined, explaining that “Republicans buy shoes too.” Michael Jordan may be the most ambiguous brand in the history of sports marketing. On the one hand, he has no peers; his collaboration with Nike put the sports apparel juggernaut on the map, and even to this day, a generation after his playing heydays, his Air Jordan brand shoes are a hot ticket. On the other hand, however, what brand other than Nike [...]