In Media Post’s Marketing Insider, SLRG President and incurable Tennessee Titans fan, Jon Last speaks to how his favorite NFL team’s recent uniform unveil, pressed all the right buttons for successful sports marketing activation.
Full disclosure—I am a die-hard, uber-obsessive, 40+year fan of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans NFL franchise. That said, as one who makes his living providing marketing research-driven strategic insights for the sports industry, it is imperative to separate one’s personal rooting interest from a necessity to be objective, and distance oneself from any personal bias or fan interest. The Titans franchise is not on our current client roster, but my passion for the team inevitably leads me to lend a scrutinizing eye to the ways in which this small market team brands itself and how it is perceived by the fan landscape.
Last Wednesday’s unveiling of the Titans’ first new uniform set in 20 years was one that I followed closely with both a sports marketer’s scrutiny and a highly vested fan’s nervous trepidation. As I’ve alluded to in this space and other public forums, too many sports marketers take the easy way out and go for the shiny new object without much preparation and forethought. They too often subscribe to today’s “look at me” culture’s suggestion that anything different, sensationalistic, or pandering to a perceived hipster/Millennial mindset is the way to go.
And it’s often obvious to me, when the resulting activations from that mindset seem contrived rather than well researched or planned. Thankfully, my Titans avoided that trap. Our extensive work for sports teams and governing bodies has provided a front row seat into what makes for effective team branding. Here’s how the Titans got it right:
They Engaged the Local Community: The Titans wisely utilized a multitude of media mix elements to fuel interest in the event. Promotion was pervasive on all digital and social media channels and effective public relations piqued traditional media in build-up to the actual unveiling. The activation was staged at the end of the workday as a block party, strategically situated on downtown Broadway with the Titans’ Stadium in plain sight.
The team continued to leverage synergy with its NHL brethren Nashville Predators, who, en route to its first regular season NHL title, chimed in with event support and a playful depiction of a new Titans uniform that borrowed the Preds’ primary color story and graphical elements. An estimated 20,000 people attended the live event.
The Event was Well Timed and Inclusive Beyond the Core Fan Base: The April 4th timing of the event was perfect … right after the NCAA Basketball tournament and MLB Opening Days, on the eve of The Masters Tournament as well as right before the start of the Predators play-off quest, less than a week before the Titans began official off-season work-outs and a few weeks before the NFL draft (for which the city of Nashville is seeking a future host city opportunity).
Recognizing the broader appeal of a uniform unveil event, beyond the die-hard football fan segment, the Titans were sure to promote the free post-unveil concert featuring popular cross-over country duo Florida Georgia Line. Radio and online coverage encouraged creative speculation and anticipation for what the uniforms would look like, weeks before the event.
Well-crafted and broadly distributed pre-event digital video teased elements of the new uniforms without letting the cat out of the bag. Even an unfortunate leak of one of the jerseys was deftly handled to keep the guessing game going. For non-local fans like myself, a live stream of the actual 30-minute presentation was well promoted and flawlessly executed, and immediately followed up with easy to find photos, videos and back-story on various team media.
The Event Showcased Organizational Transparency and Linked the Past to The Present: Titans Principal Owner Amy Adams Strunk was front and center as the champion of the new uniform design effort; prominently visible before, during and after the unveil. Titans GM Jon Robinson and Head Coach Mike Vrabel led the on-stage build-up, and later returned to the stage during the concert, where the band wore the new Titans duds.
Past and present players, along with cheerleaders and the team mascot got into the act. Mike Keith, the radio voice of the Titans, was the logical choice as event emcee. Well-produced videos were integrated into the pre-show, and included an inside look at the rigorous design process and rationale for the uniform design elements. The event evoked a nostalgic, yet contemporary take on the old high school pep rally. And, of course it didn’t hurt that the new uniforms and helmet look pretty cool!