Biz of Soccer: Referencing The Word “Brand”

Bit of a cordial disagreement here on Twitter.

Recent front office moves, (Portland firing John Spencer, DCU gaining new ownership) have created public communication from the teams from front offices where the word “brand” has been used to refer to the entity. For example, instead of Portland Timbers “club,” it was referred to by Merritt Paulson in his presser this week as the Portland Timbers “brand.”

Some argue that the word “brand” makes the entity “impersonal, or inaccessible” to fans. Others argue that the word “brand” is a positive in that it insures a full positive experience for the fan, beyond just the product put on the field. But do fans really care?

How do you feel about the word selection of “brand?”

*Note: The results of this poll needed to be taken with a grain of salt as we are reaching a certain demographic of fans on this publication.


9 responses to this post.

  1. Watching the conversation develop between you and Mr. Davis is definitely intriquing. As a member of the Screaming Eagles and an ardent DC supporter, I love the talk of developing the idea of DC United becoming more than 25 grown men playing a sport professionally. I want it to embody a certain spirit and a certain experience too. I think there are examples of “impersonal” brands for sports teams out there, but that doesn’t encompass all teams wishing to create a brand.


  2. Posted by californiaredskins on 2012/07/14 at 2:09 PM

    This argument is very interesting and probably best illustrated by juxtaposing the two points: Would you rather go watch your team lose in Portland or win in DC? I think in the short run club success is the most important factor, but as a long-term issue the brand is more important than the W-L record because the latter is a more significant driver of revenue (gate / tv). This of course is assuming that brand is defined by # fans, stadium experience, etc.

    Regardless, talking about the ‘brand’ has no significant effect on the present or future of the club if there is no action of substance behind the words that would ultimately improve the ‘brand.’


    • Posted by californiaredskins on 2012/07/14 at 2:14 PM

      As a SoCal resident, I am probably biased but I think the Galaxy have probably done the best job of aiming its brand. The Galaxy brand is centered around the relentless pursuit of winning and is supported by the big-name signings; not the other way around as is a popular opinion.


  3. Posted by buckyball77 on 2012/07/14 at 3:25 PM

    Mr. Paulson’s choice of the “brand” word is more unfortunate here in our local area than it might be elsewhere. Portland fans who date from the USL decade feel that they had a huge role in organically creating the Timbers persona (and current popularity) in the face of clueless owners (prior to MP) and modest pitch success. The differentiation between our team fans and casual consumers of football entertainment product is real.

    Paulson probably slipped and used a phrase normally reserved for his marketing staff meetings or calls from Don Garber.


  4. I think the front office for L.A. are definitely all about the “brand.” Maybe more than any other team in MLS….and it’s a VERY long term/view of things. I don’t really follow any other MLS teams so maybe I’m mistaken but the Galaxy are the only team I’ve heard use the term “Super Club”. And I’ve heard used several times, probably too much in the present tense lol. They seem to have a clear vision/goal to reach “Super Club” status and with signings like Beckham and Keane I guess they are implementing what they think is the best strategy to get there.


  5. Posted by SamT on 2012/07/15 at 6:54 AM

    Whether the owners used the word or not, it’s been my experience that very few people in this world understand what it means to create a brand in any industry — MLS or otherwise. The best brand builders understand that the business exists to serve the consumer and create a meaningful experience for that consumer. It goes well beyond marketing slogans and often taps into something deeply emotional for consumers.

    DCU has arguably the longest and deepest fan experience and tradition to draw from. They have been rocking the lower bowl of RFK for over 15 years, have plenty of hardware to their name… Whether they have been managing the brand well is arguable, but it’s clear there is a lot of latent brand value around DC United that the new owners can tap into. Good luck to them.


    • Posted by Gregorio on 2012/07/15 at 12:20 PM

      Well Said Sam, Its true that there must be an emotional connection or experience for people to buy into, simply using jargon or corporate strategies to maximize or prioritze profitability over team success will be sniffed out by fans with great BS detectors. Some take time to ascertain owners true intentions.
      Anyway brand should be an expectation or shared belief/value; look at the Yankees or Liverpool as examples of branding(please don’t hit me with lean years as a critique)
      How abiout when you stay at a hotel, do you have same expectations staying at the Four Seasons as you do staying at the Red Roof Inn? For me MLS teams seem to be more like fights between a few Hyatt/Hilton frnachises and the rest are Comfort inns or Days Inn.
      Disclaimer, I’m on vacation all summer with the family so hotel selections seem important to me, have to have WIFI so I can read the Shin Guardian. Freaking Hotels want to charge me extra $$ just to read about my Footy!


  6. Why is it that AEG promotes and invests in LA attempting to establish an international brand while the Dynamo is lucky to have Kinnear and Canetti.


  7. Posted by Hal on 2012/07/15 at 8:35 PM

    i’m not sure brand and club cancel each other out. You can have a club like Manchester United that is also a worldwide brand.

    One of the things about MLS that has made it harder to identify with the league and its teams is the way the teams have been branded as franchises and not clubs. Franchises may not offend the NBA or NFL fan. But I can tell you that a lot of soccer fans have a hard time rooting for a franchise.


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