By: Sarah Sceery
A late fourth quarter pick by Patriots safety Malcom Butler is a game changer, giving the patriots their 4th Super Bowl victory in the last 15 years. David Ortiz knocks one out of the park for a walk off home run, keeping the Red Sox alive during the 2004 ALCS battle with the Yankees. Carli Lloyd and the US Women’s National Team have an entire nation following them as they dominate the 2015 Women’s Soccer World Cup. These moments, and so many more, are what drive the passion, following and multi trillion dollar “sport” industry in our country. But have you ever stopped to wonder, where it all began?
How did the NFL become the chosen national league? When was it decided that college hockey rules should be different than the NHL? Why are men’s baseball leagues successful but women’s have failed?
Today, our sport society is branded by people and symbols that increase name recognition, perceived product quality, emotion and loyalty among fan bases in and out of leagues. In an article led by Dr. Stephen Hardy, the authors aim to look at the history of sport branding, and how our world of sport today came to be, through the use of marketing in the past and present.
Building the brand of sport takes into consideration many factors including rules, equipment, narratives and publications, entrepreneurial initiative and names. Take the NHL as an example. Building the brand as we know it today derives from hockey’s Canadian roots. Rule changes and adaptions were made to transform this favorite past time into formality in 1917. In the 1920s, in order to compete with college markets, European leagues and our Canadian neighbors, the NHL made an expansion into the United States, again experiencing rule changes but also selling the “speed of play.” Articulated through newspapers with emphasis on photography, a new brand of hockey was being delivered to consumers. These adaptations in rules, equipment and media continue to change the game today through playoff structures, coach challenges, instant replay and checking.
The brand association with our major players today (Football, Baseball, Hockey, Basketball) all began through a link with emotional and functional benefits. Today, these factors continue to play a critical role in the alignment of how marketers can continue to build a brand and product. Even in our Boston market, franchises and colleges alike must appeal to consumers in order to maintain loyalty, develop a sporting lifestyle, drive revenue and ultimately provide the “best” fan experience. Because at the end of the day, outside of the “game” itself…isn’t that what it’s all about?
Source: Stephen Hardy, Brian Norman, Sarah Sceery (2012), “Toward a history of sport branding,” Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol.4, Iss. 4, pp.482-509.