Reworking an ailing brand requires patience, creativity and a thick skin. So says someone who should know – Michael Goff, president of Premier Sports Management (PSM), the Kansas-based company tasked with revitalizing College Football’s postseason from Bowl Championship Series to College Football Playoff. Below, Goff shares some insights on rebooting one of college athletics’ most criticized and unpopular brands.
- Be willing to start from scratch. Goff and his team set out to learn as much as they could about opinions of the BCS: good, bad and ugly. It wasn’t easy to hear, but it was necessary. “We had to know fan attitudes in order to fully understand where we needed to take the new brand,” said Goff. “We quickly realized that this had to be an exercise that distanced the new organization from all of the negativity about BCS, and that it did us no good to link anything back to that former brand.”
- Research. Research again, then do more research. PSM met with all of college football’s constituencies, conducted focus groups and looked at what other iconic brands were doing. “We did a ton of secondary research to find out as much as we could about (a) fans of college football and (b) what other sports and entertainment brands had done with their naming and visual identity,” said Goff. “Finally, we conducted focus groups – four markets with one group each of avid fans and casual fans. All of that was used to guide the process and our recommendations.”
- Trust your gut – and those focus groups you commissioned. The new brand name came relatively easily. Focus groups and fans immediately loved the simple “College Football Playoff.” The logo and visuals were tougher. Goff notes the “visual identity is more of a crapshoot as you develop a look based upon all of the various needs” of potentially conflicting groups, including advertising, retail and player apparel, on-field, digital, etc. His advice: “You just review the various options and ultimately make a decision.” The initial design received mixed reviews – an anticipated situation. “Media and (the public) are seeing it in a static setting – not in how it ultimately will be used,” Goff said. “It wasn’t until the recent playoff happened and we all saw the visual identity in place did we know that it worked – really, really well.”
- Know your market. Luckily for PSM, college football fans and viewers are diverse. “You design for a broader audience than, say, X Games, which would be aimed more at teens or millennials,” Goff said. “We know that different age groups and interest groups care about different things as it relates to college football. What we designed worked, we felt, across all segments.” Goff believes the brand is simple, yet elegant, and “is different than other sports properties, thus making it distinctive.”
- Set benchmarks to measure your success – and try not to gloat (too much). The national championship game this year was the most watched cable TV program ever. The playoff games were the highest rated bowl games ever. While it wasn’t an easy process, Goff succinctly sums up the rebranding’s success: “It’s hard to argue with those numbers!”
Photo credits: College Football Playoff logo and BCS logo (Collegefootballplayoff.com)