Building a program by design: branding

By Robert Pomazak | Posted 5/7/2019


With the capabilities of social media, it would be assumed to say that branding your program is easy. Take a few pictures and post them on social media and let the likes and reposts do their work. Unfortunately, while that can be done, it is not aligned with the building a program by design ideology. To fully understand branding, it is important to understand what branding actually is. A brand is more than a name or visual element to represent your program. It is the emotional and psychological attachment that a person makes to their experience with your program. Branding is an action statement. It is the mode in which we explain to all why we exist. After the mission and vision are put in place, the opportunities to use various branding methodologies can be used to support those beliefs.

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Brand Positioning

When branding your program, understand that the goal of branding is to define your program, not to advertise it. Positioning the program branding so that it supports your mission and vision is essential. At St. Charles North we ask the question, “What will people gain?” The answer is to give an opportunity to those outside our program to have a meaningful experience within our program. There is a difference between brand and branding. A brand name is saying who you are, but branding is telling the story of what you are.

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Brand Implementation Plan

When developing your brand management plan, it is important to understand that a successful brand can help to win investment. It can help to build interest and program value which can in turn build program numbers in the long run. Program security is a concern for most high school coaches and by establishing a positive brand footprint it can help the program exponentially. At St. Charles North our brand development is centered around our vision of a being an experience-based program. I strongly feel that if we focus our efforts on creating experiences that support our mission and use strategic marketing and public relations it will strengthen the brand. Our brand has been created by giving our key stakeholders the very best we can supply and then allowing the community to be a part of the experience.

    • The hook: “The Process,” “Row the Boat,” etc. – While I don’t think it is totally necessary, there is sound evidence that supports the development of a brand name or motto. Every product has one and it has now bled into the collegiate game with Minnesota’s “Row the Boat” and Alabama’s “The Process.” I will say that if you choose to use this method, make sure it is something that you believe in and can explain with clarity. P.J. Fleck developed “Row the Boat” not because it looked cool on a t-shirt but because it was a promise he made to himself on how to live his life after his son passed away. It is an extremely personal moment that he has used to fuel his program beliefs.
    • Our brand development has been centered around treating our players like rock stars. It is important to me as a head coach to make sure our football community feels appreciated. Our brand has been built on creating experiences that support our beliefs. People have recognized this effort and it has attracted a positive reaction that then begins to feed the overall goal. Below are a few ideas that we have executed at our school.
      • Locker room enhancements
      • Peanut butter jelly bar
      • Division I feel/tech/model etc.
      • 2D/3D media
      • Parent group 
    • An important aspect of our brand development is to associate the program with businesses that exemplify the elite experience we want to give as well as enhance our program by partnership alone. Similar to why products want to be associated with celebrities, our program looks to connect with vendors that speak to our target audience. If the program goals are to give the best experience possible then the equipment and vendors that are brought in must reflect that ideology. We have been fortunate but also intent on seeking out opportunities to attach the St. Charles North brand with other more established mainstream name brands. Below are just a few of the opportunities that we have been able to create.
      • Gear – Nike. We signed an exclusive deal to be Nike-branded program.
      • Equipment – Riddell, Vicis and Schutt provide the best options for our parents and players in protection. 
      • Nutrition – Gatorade. We are a Gatorade recovery school and have worked to supply our student-athletes with recovery items throughout the summer and season.
      • Player Tek – We have made an investment in energy systems monitoring last year and have outfitted our high workload players with GPS monitors for every practice and game. The data is used to ensure we are keeping our players at optimal workloads throughout the season. This has gone a long way with parent support in knowing we try to do all we can to protect our kids.
      • Xbox – While we don’t have a deal with Microsoft, we did create an Xbox lounge for our kids to relax in before and after practice. Video games are a common denominator for many of our athletes and it brings them together like the parlor games of yesteryear.