Student Section Branding - The Rebuild (Part 4a)
The fourth step in the student section rebuild is branding and marketing.
I’ve broken this step into two parts. This blog will be on branding, next week’s on marketing.
A student section brand is powerful. It can be powerful in creating community, student buy-in and can be a tremendous asset to the athletics program or university. It can represent excitement, energy, impact.
It also can be powerful in causing confusion, apathy, divisiveness and can operate as a liability. It can represent boredom and be associated with ‘free-stuff’. Probably not the ideal culture you desire, right?
Let’s start with why a student section brand is so important to focus on.
The BRAND is what students are going to be part of.
The BRAND is what students are going to attach emotion to.
The BRAND is what students are going to promote to other friends.
The BRAND is what other opponents and press are going to talk about.
The BRAND is what students identify with and take ownership of.
I see a few common problems with most student section brands.
1. No brand – These schools don’t have a name for their student section. It’s just ‘the student section’.
How can students identify with and take pride in something that doesn’t exist?
2. Location based brand – These schools have a brand but it’s based on the physical location of the section.
When students are being called a physical location or part of an arena, it doesn’t represent the culture.
3. Too many brands – These schools have 2-8 student section brands.
Simply put, this causes confusion. Who is the student section? What are the leaders called? How about football? Basketball? Olympic sports? What about paid members?
Quick story. My freshman year at GCU, the student section was called the Monsoon Section.
Sophomore year when I got brought on as a leader, they said we’re adding the Havocs, which is going to be the ‘craziest part of the Monsoon’.
The result? Students were confused. Were us leaders just the Havocs? Was everyone a Havoc? Was every Havoc part of the Monsoon? Do I sign up? Is it paid?
You get the point. The more questions students ask, the more likely they’re going to say ‘forget it, I’m just going to play video games’.
For new-age student sections, brands are simple yet effective. New-age student section brands are made up of four pillars.
Pillar #1 - NAME
Name – This is the name of the student section (remember the student section represents the GROUP OF STUDENTS as a whole, not just the section). The goal here is to have a name that represents the desired culture and to where students can say ‘I am a ____’ or ‘I’m part of the ______’.
My personal preference?
Just have one name. It makes it easy for social media, marketing communication and brand identity.
No need to have multiple names for every little thing.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say Biggest Fan University names their student section, the ‘Hooligans’. This is how it would look:
Student section (All students) - Hooligans
Student section Leaders - Hooligan Leaders
VIP/Paid/All-Access - Hooligan Members
Other sports - Hooligans
*Disclaimer - If you already have multiple brands and have a longstanding tradition with year after year growth and success, this may not apply.
Pillar #2 - LOGO
Logo - This is a physical representation of the student section.
The logo should be within the look and feel of the school and athletics. However, the logo should be unique and simple. It should be clean and easy to put as a social media profile or on merchandise.
If you’re just starting out, just have one primary logo and one alternative logo.
Pillar #3 - SLOGAN
Slogan - This should summarize the desired culture of the student section.
The slogan can change year after year.
The slogan should be able to be put in a hashtag, or in the bio of a social media profile.
The slogan can be used on flags, tifo banners, social media posts, hats, t-shirts, chants.
We like it rowdy
Dress weird, get weird
Paint up, stand up
Teams don’t like us, and we like that
^^Feel free to use any of those or variations.
Pillar #4 - CULTURE
Culture - Without culture, the brand is meaningless.
It’s not the name, logo or slogan that gives meaning and power to a brand. It’s the culture (values, goals, practices).
This is why finding top 1% student leaders and creating desired culture is done BEFORE creating/updating/changing/optimizing the brand.
If you haven’t already, go back and read my previous email or blog on building student section culture.
Once a brand is created or optimized, it’s ready to take to market. Next week, I will be sharing the most effective marketing techniques for building a student section movement and debunking traditional theories.
As always, if this was helpful and you’re ready to take your student section to the next level…