Posted by - Whitestone International

The principles of generating Brand Pull and a platform for growth through building personal identity, social connections and a sense of cultural belonging into a brand’s strategy, culture (internally and externally) and expression.”

This article touches on three high-level principles of generating Brand Pull and a platform for growth through building personal identity, social connections and a sense of cultural belonging into a brand’s strategy, culture (internally and externally) and expression. It follows on from a piece we wrote on the humanisation of brands and the ever increasing requirement for brands to deliver value beyond the function of the product. In other words, a brand personifies the business behind it as a way of qualifying and building meaningful and sustainable relationships with all audiences.

Sports is a specialism of ours, and given that many sports brands are already represented by human faces (whether a team of players, an individual star or a brand ambassador), we’ve been asked if ‘the brand’ still needs to play this role. The answer is yes – the brand, as a proxy, representation and personification of the culture behind a sports business, transcends the inevitable ups and downs in performance on the field of play or stars’ personal lives. Identifying with, liking and trusting a brand, as much as the product itself, creates a true sense and measure of value – ‘Brand Currency’. As applicable to B2B as it is to B2C audiences, it is imperative to look at these platforms as pivotal to the business behind the brand in order to meaningfully engage audiences.

We have identified the three principles below as the basis for creating demand (Brand Pull) amongst audiences. And whilst the emotive connections in sports often heighten and deepen their impact, they need to be at the heart of any business strategy – sports or otherwise – consistently expressed and maintained to generate that demand in today’s fluid and fickle markets.

Personal Value & Identity (Strategic)

Fundamentally, fans make conscious decisions and statements about their sense of value and personal identity through their association with a particular brand of sport/sports brand and their connected purchases. Through these associations, not only do they shape/validate/express their own identity, they use brands to shift their view of their actual self-image to their ideal self-image. These inner, and outward, facing actions and expressions – whether attending, participating, interacting on social media, wearing a team shirt, or otherwise – rely heavily on trust; trust in the brand not to let them down, to act and advocate on their behalf and to represent and communicate what they stand for, win or lose.

Nurturing trust in the brand by enriching the daily lives of audiences, for instance through insight, interaction and purchase, drives the value fans experience, which in turn supports the foundations of loyalty and growth. Doing so continuously and consistently increases the brand’s currency through the associative value it offers. But it must be authentic and come from within the business, which can only be achieved through a strong strategy that shapes the brand’s core purpose, values, principles, culture and personality traits that fans buy into and will share.

Social Impact & Connection (Experiential & Exchange)

Word of mouth, advocacy and sharing, speak for themselves as drivers of business impact. We each value our social expression, connections and interactions – particularly sports audiences –and commonly they are based around a brand. Therefore, the most successful brands inspire audiences to go beyond just the functional consumption to the next emotive level of a reciprocal relationship with the business and with others using the brand as catalyst. At the heart of this value is providing platforms for their voices and opinions to be heard, valued, responded to, confirmed or indeed challenged. Each interaction provides personal and social value (and validation) through something to talk about, bond over, learn from and connect through sharing experiences with friends, family and like-minded individuals.

We’ve spoken before on the expectations for brands to be available 24/7 to audiences and how now, more than ever, they are being asked to solve challenges on behalf of communities and cultures. The ability to reach out and be socially connected through a brand is near enough immediate in today’s world. It is now seen as the responsibility of a brand, given its perceived resources, to provide a platform for social impact beyond its immediate remit. So in exchange for positive engagement, as well as being responsive, businesses must demonstrate there is an authentic culture behind the brand, as well as a transparency and loyalty of their own not only towards their fans, but to the wider community.

Cultural Progress & Belonging (Articulation & Relationship)

Today’s ‘sharing economy’ has broken down historical relationships and barriers that once stood between corporate businesses and their audiences. This has led to a bigger sense of cultural belonging that is bred through communication, contribution and value (beyond the product). And with the lines between businesses, consumers, employees, stakeholders and other vested parties crumbling, the brand provides the bridge, standing for a sense of shared community.

Brands can form an immediate pathway or a short-hand to establishing a sense of belonging and buy-in within its community through identity, iconography, personality and tone of voice etc. – all of which express shared beliefs, values and ethos. They also need to do so with creativity, passion and empathy if the business is to be truly audience focussed and build a sense of belonging and progress which, in sports in particular, is at the heart of loyalty and demand.

We have researched, developed and honed theses principles over the years as part of the stable platforms and drivers of value we use to define, build and deliver business and growth for our clients and as the basis of building demand in today’s dynamic world.

Focusing on Brand Pull is key to building value in sports brands and underpins growth and sustainable commercial value. Whether a team brand, individual or competition, a governing body, campaign or a sponsor, the tenets of Brand Pull enable us to better understand how audiences think and anticipate how they feel and act when being engaged.