The purpose of marketing a sports team is to drive revenue, and thus to drive growth. Every aspect—ticket sales, merchandise, and community connection—all feeds back into that endgame of growing the organization. After defining where we are in terms of marketing the Beauts, and where we want to go, we have to establish the “how”. When researching marketing strategies of teams that had to build from the ground up in today’s technology-driven world, one stood out to me above the others in terms of initial approach—the Portland Timbers.
The Timbers, a Major League Soccer franchise that only began playing in the spring of 2011, utilized a unique approach to the initial marketing of the team before their first season. Tapping into an already existing and already passionate fanbase—the Timbers Army—of the original Timbers, a team that played in the United Soccer Leagues, owner Merritt Paulson determined that the best way to launch his team would be to appeal to the identity of the city, one of counterculture and uniqueness. Paulson’s approach was to advertise unconventionally, by putting up billboards all around the city of simple photos of Timbers Army members with a small logo and the simple statement, “Spring 2011”. No reference to websites or social media, and no team names. It suited the identity of the city of Portland perfectly.
Buffalo’s identity could be described as hard work, passion, and loyalty, particularly when it comes to sports. This identity is one that it will be all too easy for the Beauts to tap into when marketing the team as part of the city. Women’s hockey didn’t get to where it was today by taking the easy road, because there was no easy road—from establishing amateur and college programs to getting women’s hockey into the winter Olympics, it has been a fight from the very beginning, and the NWHL and the Buffalo Beauts face the same struggle. The passion the NWHL has for the sport—particularly Rylan as Commissioner—is evident, and making that passion clear in marketing is one of the best weapons that the Beauts have in their arsenal. There are three distinct aspects of marketing itself that I want to look at in this plan: branding, social media, and events. Today, we’re looking at branding.
While the Beauts only having a wordmark logo isn’t my favorite thing, I have high hopes for the league recognizing its limitations in terms of the amount of merchandise it can sell, and indeed the variety of merchandise it would allow them to create. My only further suggestion regarding team colors and logo would be to add an accent color—my choice would be lipstick red—to the branding. While the lipstick red accent would not be used in the primary home and away jerseys, it could be utilized for items such as gloves or goalie helmets, as well as for any potential third jerseys down the road. The red could also be used in specific merchandising items such as t-shirts or hats, as well as on the official website and any graphics to provide more variety in terms of design.
Brianne McLaughlin should also be an integral part of the Beauts’ brand. McLaughlin was the first player signed by Buffalo and is a two-time Olympic silver medalist. The Beauts will be, as I noted earlier in the paper, looking to market their players as elite professionals, and McLaughlin will make for a good face of the team in that respect. She has reach outside of the women’s hockey world, having appeared on the television show American Ninja Warrior as a competitor and having modeled in Haute Athletics’ 2015 show at New York Fashion Week. While goalies aren’t always necessarily the first players teams look to when they begin to market their franchise player, the Beauts could do far worse than choosing McLaughlin.
A team’s brand (or as we on the internet like to say mockingly, #brand) is something that’s really built over time as the team and its fanbase evolves, so these are just some suggestions to get the Beauts started. Next up: social media and events.