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Our communications partner, SQN, knows all the secrets to building a good brand. We were joined by the company’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Ritchie, and Account Director Stuart Owen for a PitStop Chat to discuss how to build a memorable identity and the importance of maintaining a positive reputation.
What is branding and why is it important?
Chris: “It’s very much around identity. Often people think of branding as a logo, but it is so much more than that. A logo is really just the surface, and though it does help to make a brand recognisable, such as with Apple and Nike, it’s very much the personality of you as an entity or a team. It’s about setting out how you want to be perceived by other people in your school, people in your local community, potential sponsors – what does the team mean to people? You can see this in various Formula 1 teams; Red Bull Racing is professional but positions itself as a fun team while other teams are more serious and corporate. This attracts different sponsors and shows in the way they behave and engage with people. The brand goes before you and is communicated to a wide audience before you’ve even had direct contact with somebody – that’s what marketing is all about.”
Stuart: “If you have a strong brand you can win attention before your car has even been put on the track. It’s not necessarily all about having the fastest car; a good brand can draw people to you.”
Chris: “Greenpower teams aren’t just judged by their performance on track, there is other elements to the challenge such as Best Presented team. It’s very much a question of looking at the complete picture, and not just making a fast car.”
How do you go about creating a brand?
Chris: “If you have a few members of the team interested in graphic design, you can come up with some ideas and play around with logos in branding, but I would aim to keep it simple. It’s often the simple things that are the more memorable ones, but also more economical and realistic to implement across car liveries and uniforms.”
Stuart: “Being aware of utilising your assets and contacts you have to the best of your abilities is useful to do. You can run competitions to get some branding ideas to get people outside of the team involved, and make them feel part of the process – helping to build the brand awareness from the beginning.”
Chris: “The marketing departments of sports teams is a critical element and there’s always a budget involved in portraying your image and identity. These soft skills and non-STEM skills are also important in STEM industries.”
Where is a good place to start?
Chris: “I would look at what emotions you are trying to get across, whether that be cool professionalism, passion, fun and enjoyment, and find a design that portrays this.”
Stuart: “I think the key is to put time into thinking about your brand. It’s not just a last minute decision or the last thing on your to-do list, it’s a really important element. Give yourselves plenty of time to consider the brand, and do plenty of research on your favourite brands and consider why they are your favourite. Why does that branding stand out to you? Look at other Greenpower teams as well and think about what inspires you when you see them and what connects you to them.”
Chris: “If you’ve got some businesses in mind that might be a good sponsor or partner for you team, look at their colours and values stand for and try to align your brand with them.”
No one team is the same as the other; how should they incorporate their own unique assets into their brand?
Stuart: “You’ve got to think beyond your own personal preferences – after all, you’re representing your school, your club, your community, and when you go on the track people are associating you with that. Your branding should be reflective of where you come from, thinking about the bigger picture and making sure that you’re proud of what you’re representing. There are so many brilliant Greenpower teams around the world, so it does make it harder, and any individual element – like a flag or a logo – that can be implement links it beautifully back to where you’ve come from, and makes it easier for you to stand out and be remembered.”
Chris: “A mood board is a brilliant way to start. It captures all the input on your identity and what you want to be known for.
What role does reputation play?
Chris: “Building a reputation takes time; you’ve got to gradually build it up and importantly nurture it as it develops. It is not the work of a moment. Behaving inappropriately and not living the values of the team can harm your identity, so all team members need to be responsible for maintaining and continuing a positive reputation. Everyone has to buy into it and want to be part of it.”
Stuart: “Every time you step in front of a sponsor to do a pitch or turn up at an event, you are a representation of that brand. Everything you do will reflect on it, so the more bought into the values of the brand you are, the better job you will do showing off your brand in the best light.”
Companies re-brand every so often; what advice do you have for teams who might want to refresh their identity?
Chris: “Refreshing a brand might not be something you want to do regularly, although we do see motorsport teams coming out with new liveries every year as a result of new sponsorship deals they have for the season. It might not always be appropriate for a Greenpower team, but if you are looking to re-brand it is important to go back to keeping it simple, and to evolve. In the world of marketing, when companies completely redesign themselves you can lose momentum with your reputation. It should be done sensitively, so I would advise to evolve rather than revolutionise.”
Stuart: “There’s got to be a good reason behind it. If it is a matter of moving away from a bad reputation, then you might want to move away from what your brand was previously associated with. It depends on the motivation behind the re-brand. People can stand up and take notice of evolution in brand, and it can be as simple as taking something flat and making it 3D.”
Any final advice?
Chris: “A branding exercise is almost an engineering project in itself - isn’t just about coming up with a single instance of a typeface or a colour palette or logo. You often need a couple of variants or options to deliver the right look and feel.”
Stuart: “It can be a fun experience as well. Sometimes branding sounds a bit boring and not something you would enjoy, but you can all do it together and it doesn’t need to cost money. We all know people who are creative and there are ways to use things that are just lying around and come up with innovative and inspirational ideas.”
Chris: “The final key message we would give is one of consistency. The whole point of branding is to try and be remembered and build up a following. Let evolution be in tune with your previous heritage, but also make sure that you’re being consistent with every opportunity to ensure it all fits together.”
You can watch the full PitStop Chat on our YouTube channel, as well as enjoy the other videos in the series.