Many teams across Europe are hoping to gain sponsorship revenue. Some will use that money to grow their facilities, others to pay players, more still to reward their amazing volunteer staff. One of the most efficient, least expensive, ways to begin expanding your revenue generating landscape is through branding.
When you create a recognized, easily shared, brand you increase your online footprint. Once interest in your product is widespread, and can be tallied in a meaningful way, sponsors will be more inclined to support your team. After all, the point of spending money with you is, to bring your customers to their business so first, you have to show them you have an active, involved clientele.
Your team has a name, a logo, maybe even a mascot. You are well-known throughout the community and your facilities are big enough to have a name of their own. Great! You still need a brand. What is a brand then?
A brand is your organization’s identity. It is the full package of all of these things, in a single, recognizable, phrase and logo that translates across all social, internet and print media.
This is more than a logo and a name. This is finding THE name that instantaneously identifies your club, and only your club, for anyone who comes across it.
Branding is distinct and has visual consistency across all platforms.
Have you ever been excited to socially share a photo highlighting another team’s player doing something amazing? Chances are you found the player’s team on Facebook but, when you went to Twitter or Instagram, the name was not the same. This is what branding is all about.
Making it EASY for people to find you and share information with your community. Branding is really that simple.
Some of the benefits of branding include:
• Audience Growth: Easy for word of mouth to spread
• Team Participation: The more teams know about you around the world, the more fans, networking opportunities and ways to increase your level of play you open your team up to.
• Media Exposure: When the press can easily find you, they are more likely to cover you.
• Social Growth: By branding your team you create consistency. This allows for anyone – sponsors, fans, media and other teams – to find your information and share details with or about you across a variety of social avenues, even some you may not yet be active in.
• Sponsorship Growth: When you are recognizable, sponsors have an interest in your fanbase. You, in turn, have an interest in sharing their clientele. When you make your brand easy to use/share, you increase a sponsor’s opportunity to include you in posts and thus, expose the club to new potential fans.
Before you brand you have some things to consider.
1) Where will we be?
a. Social media platforms
2) What tells a stranger who we are?
b. On hearing it
c. Name recognition
3) What social cues will you leave behind?
c. SOE tags
There are dozens of ways to spell things. You have country-by-country distinctions, as well as phonetic considerations. While there are any number of ways you could spell something, in baseball, your best option is always to default to English. There are two reasons for this.
1) Baseball is communicated in English and fans that find you are loyal. Consider making the basic information for your club – address, phone, email and merchandise page - English friendly.
2) English with the right SOE, will help you grow a global, year-round merchandise revenue stream for your team.
Thanks to the entertainment import business most countries in Europe have at least some television, if not movie, exposure to English. It is taught in many schools and is considered a global language. English is one of the easiest languages to sound/spell out. By selecting a name that is easy to pronounce and spell in English, you increase your chances of being stumbled upon by new fans while avoiding upsetting any local fans. For example, if your team name in your native language is the Sharks, consider using the English spelling of your town name and sharks.
English is not just about fans either. It’s also about the media. Global media runs on English as their first language. It is a necessity for communicating news and information to outlets able to pick up stories about your team and share them with a larger audience. All tournament details and media guides should be in English.
If no one on staff is fluent in written English, consider a translator plug-in service for your website. If, for example, your website is run by WordPress or Wix, they have multi-lingual website plug-ins available in their site building tools.
Time to put all these considerations into practice. Before you begin any naming change, hold a brainstorming session. You’re going to need at least 15 names everyone can agree on. That sounds crazy but you will need them. The reason is simple. Many names will already be taken across one or more platforms you’d like to use.
This next step is going to take a while so, while we recommend everyone stick around to help, the reality is there just aren’t always enough hours available on the agenda. That’s what makes this a great off-season project. It is also what makes it a good committee-driven task.
Once the list is compiled, the first step is to verify that there are no other users across all platforms. As soon as the name availability is confirmed, take it, all at once, across every platform, even if you don’t have immediate plans to grow it.
Platforms to check:
Website: The best sources for scoping out name availability are www.globalnames.com or www.onlydomains.com. Simply type in the name you’d like to use. They will let you know if it is available. They will also tell you what alternatives are available if your name is taken. Remember, that a .com is universal whereas a .it, for example, is only known in Italy.
Twitter: This is really where your search should begin in terms of social media. That is because, with character limitations, you need to remember that your name, or handle as they call it, must remain short. The longer it is the less spaces you have for your messages.
Hashtag: Every club should have their own social hashtag that they include in any post they place. This is an easy identifier that lets your fans help you socialize across their platforms as well. Keeping it short and memorable is key to more use and, as a result, higher results in browser searches.
Let’s say you have chosen to start off slow, only creating a Facebook and Twitter account, mastering them before moving on to Instagram and YouTube. By having an established hashtag, you let people know how they can socialize about your club in a way that fans on those platforms can continue to spread the word about your club, even when you are not yet on the platform yourself.
Facebook: Facebook only lets you name your site once so we recommend picking that name dead last, but checking it should be near the top of your list as it is going to be the most difficult name to establish. It’s just a fact that people and business share names. It is also a fact that sports fans love to show their enthusiasm by naming a fan site close to the team name. This will mean more creative naming, thus the list of 15 alternatives.
YouTube: baseball and softball are active sports. It’s so important to engage your fans visually. Creating interviews, homestand promotional videos and other forms of engagement, such as kid camp sessions and drills from the pros are all great ways to enhance fan engagement year-round. YouTube is an under-tapped market in sports so finding the right name combination should be relatively easy compared to the others.
Instagram: The world is visual. The best part of sports action is the photography. The ability to take moments captured by the professionals and showcase them socially is so great for your team. If a good photo makes the rounds with the right social tags, baseball communities the world round will find and follow you.
One team that has done their name branding relatively well is the Pawtucket Red Sox. Know for years before social media existed simply as the PawSox, they have secured the name across Twitter and Instagram and the hashtag has been shared more than 18,000 times on Instagram alone. While they could also have chosen the same on Facebook, they made a slight alteration choosing the handle GoPawSox instead. It is likely the name was otherwise occupied when they did their naming process or they were not in full branding mode at the time. Either way, thanks to their shortened slang, fans know exactly how to share and where to find them on, or offline.
Their nickname fits into their overall brand in three ways:
1) Paw: Short for Pawtucket, an unusual city name that is difficult to spell, it is also a great reminder of the team logo, which is a dog.
2) Sox: Despite there being the White Sox in the MLB as well, it is only Boston that is known simply as, the Sox. By continuing the expected name recognition, the PawSox, who are a minor league affiliate to Boston, clearly establish that relationship to any newcomers.
3) Length: It is short, making it socially friendly.
4) Unique: It can only mean their team.
One expansion tip as you push forward with your branding agenda. Social media is tricky business. Work to dominate two platforms before moving on, then add more one at a time. Master and make sure you can coordinate all your platforms before continuing to add. You can use a social media coordination tool, such as Hootsuite, to help you keep up with posts and social planning.
If you like
Other “localized” social media (Bebo, Meet Up)
These are additional channels for you to master once you’ve gotten a hold on the 'must' list. No matter the number of social channels you decide to become a part of, as an organization the most important thing to do, in this moment, is grab the name you have selected across every channel you can possible envision the club engaging in at any time in the future.
As new channels emerge, be the first to grab your ID there as well. You can always decide to remain inactive on an account but once people get used to your brand being there, they’ll search for it and, if they don’t find it, may take over the name as a fan page. Then you’re stuck in the awkward position of having to ask a fan to return a name to the team.
Once THE name is selected and secured for your website and on all social platforms, it is time to work on unifying your look.
The fastest way to do this is through banners. Creating new, monthly banners for your social sites can be a fun and creative way to change the messages your fans receive. It also gives them a regular reason to visit with you. Themes can be set up around holidays, playoffs, events at your facilities or simply team updates.
There are hundreds of design templates and other tools available online to help you make sure that the layout you select fits your social channels of choice. It is easy to then transfer that same banner into the header section of your website on just the home page or throughout the site. Consistency is the key so visually, across every platform someone encounters, folks should see the same information. This helps them ensure, at a glance, that they have your official site and not merely a fan page.
If your club is feeling confident and savvy, then the next project to tackle would be a team app. The app should be branded with the same name as the club branding across all other platforms so, if this is an idea you have as a future prospect, again, check both IOS and Android device app stores for someone else already using your name before you commit.
Maybe your club is already branded and feeling confident in the results and you’d like the rest of your league to follow suit. As daunting as the task may feel, it is completely possible to allow each club to maintain their own identities while rebranding to fit in with a more unified approach. If this sounds like something your club would like to propose, we recommend reading how the MiLB took on the task.
Remember, just because you’ve chosen your team’s brand doesn’t mean you are now forever stuck. The brand identifies the team but, as you’ll see in the examples below, even small differences create big changes over time. The brand of each of these clubs remains intact and instantaneously recognizable despite the visual alterations.
If you’d like to test European Baseball Magazine’s approach to branding simply type baseballEBM across any major platform or try the hashtag #baseballEBM. Let us know how we did!