*Excerpt from the book Brands Win Championships*
The key during the season is to be prepared for anything, but it’s especially important to be prepared for the best of circumstances. The bigger the underdog, the louder the bark after a win. If you think your team has no chance to win next week’s game, that means you need to be spending that much more time preparing to react if they do, because if you don’t believe it, chances are no one locally, regionally, or nationally believes it either. And that’s not a bad thing.
The more unexpected the event, the more eyeballs and chatter that will be focused around your program postgame. Who would have thought Boise State was going to beat Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl? Who saw George Mason making it to the Final Four in 2006? No one expected either, and because of that everyone was talking about each when they happened. Both upsets sparked national conversation among fans, media, and you better believe potential recruits. Boise State and George Mason quickly became household names nationally. Being an underdog can be a blessing in disguise—as long as you’re ready to capitalize after the unthinkable happens.
Now what do I mean by capitalize? Well, think about what happens after a big victory. Your current fans become flag-waving brand ambassadors screaming from the mountain tops; your fringe fans suddenly become solid fans who have “always been there,” and most importantly the media become eager to tell your story. It’s as if your apple pie just won the blue ribbon and everyone wants a piece. What happens if you don’t have any pie when they get there? They move onto the next pie. People have short attention spans; you have to be ready to react.
Knowing your fans are eager to show their support, give them the proverbial flag to wave immediately after the game is over. That can come in all sorts of forms. You can take a digital approach to supplying your ambassadors with tools by creating such things as phone or tablet, social media, and computer desktop wallpapers; these are quick and easy downloads that take very little effort or time to develop. This is a tactic we employed regularly across our adidas Football programs to great success. We were the first at the brand to consistently pump out real-time content, and since then every other category in one of the largest sports performance brands in the world has followed suit. So how do you do it?
First, build out your campaign for the year, establishing your look, feel, and tone. Then, under that visual umbrella, produce a series of sport-specific digital wallpapers. Now these wallpapers are all about your team; they do not include images of your competition. As soon as you have an image of an opposing team in the graphic, your message is limited to reacting to that game and that opponent. That means you’ll have to produce twelve graphics, one for each opponent, if you’re building for football, for example. There’s a smarter way. Put all of the focus on your program.
From there, include a big, bold headline that works well visually with your imagery. This headline is actually the key to your success. After UCLA beat cross-town rival USC at the end of the 2012 football season, we had a UCLA graphic ready to post on our own adidas Football channels and the school’s channels that simply read: “Our Town.” Those two words said all that was needed to be said, and they did so in a way that got UCLA and USC fans fired up in very different ways.
Once you have your visual with your headline, you will want to obtain a workable file of that art that anyone on your team can edit (specifically the headline). When your team beats the number-one team in the country, your team can immediately edit the headline to read “giant killers” or something even more specific to the events that took place during the game.
Finally, you press the button and shoot that image out into the social stratosphere to your thousands of followers, at which point it catches fire within your legion of fans (and beyond), showing up on Facebook profiles, Twitter feeds, and cell phones across the state and country.
The beauty of it all is that the actual editing process cost you no money. Once you have a piece of art you are happy with and a workable file, you will be able to react to anything that happens before, during, or after the season.
But don’t stop there. Make a bigger splash through advertising. Take out an ad in a national paper, run a television spot in primetime, put up a billboard in your closest major metropolis, buy the YouTube homepage for a day. Do something that makes those already interested individuals say, “Wow, did you see what they did?” If you want fans to take you seriously, sometimes that means taking yourself more seriously and showing some bravado after a win. If you appear surprised by the win, not ready to react, fans will continue to see you as a Cinderella story, and they will see the win as an anomaly. On the flip side, if you’re ready to react and you react in a big way, showing confidence and that you expected to win, people will start taking you more seriously. It’s that game of perception again. Be ready.