It has been suggested in some quarters that Everton Football Club are considering a “rebrand” and are seeking the opinions of some third parties plus the use of a professional brand consultancy. The scale of the rebrand, I am not sure, but I thought it useful to examine what is meant by a rebranding, why organisations do it, and ultimately my own views on what I believe should be Everton’s brand and brand values.
So what is a brand?
A brand is a unique design, sign, symbol, words, messages, name or a combination of these, employed in creating an image and perception that identifies the organisation, its product and what differentiates it from its competitors. It also carries a huge amount of information about the values, ambitions and status of the company or organisation.
Brand can be used to deliver the strategic objectives of the company, perhaps expansion – local, national or international, new corporate developments, the restatement of long term values associated with the company or product, it can be defensive (against newcomers or challengers for example) but critically it sets the standard by which other parties, suppliers, sponsors, commercial partners as well as consumers, judge your company/product/team.
It is also important to understand the best medium through which to deliver the brand. This will differ depending upon the audience, specifically for a football club depending upon the location of the market. Local messaging and how it is delivered can be different to national messaging and international again totally different, to accommodate the specific requirements. Nowhere is this more important than in the digital space.
For a business like a football club this is essential, particularly in difficult economic times as the strongest commercial partners and sponsors will seek clubs portraying values and market position closely aligned to their perception of themselves. Equally, when looking to expand your fan base the branding has to identify and communicate the key messages that resonate with the target audience.
So brand is massively important regardless of your strategic objectives. As market conditions change, organisations can change their branding in response to competitive or economic forces. However, the most successful organisations maintain a core brand message that declares why the brand matters, what it stands for and how it is stands apart from competitors.
A rebrand is an acknowledgement that the existing branding is outdated, old, no longer effective or relevant, or that the organisation is heading in a different direction driven by a new strategy.
Before rebranding can take place the organisation must understand its current branding, its current position in its market place vis-a-vis its competitors, customers (fans), commercial partners and its strategic objectives.
It must understand its core values, what is still appropriate in terms of existing branding, but most importantly what is not. It is the marketing equivalent of a new manager re-structuring your playing squad, removing the deadwood, developing existing talent and bringing new talent to the table.
So what is Everton’s current brand?
This ought to be a simple question to answer. In terms of identity, the club’s name, crest, and colours are known almost universally to football fans around the world. I suspect the motto has lost its immediate association with the club – more on that later. However, identification is only part of the branding. The core values of the club are perhaps not so readily identifiable.
An element of this clearly relates to a lack of success on the pitch, although winning is not a requirement of having a strong and identifiable brand (even if it ought to be an absolute requirement of every staff member and fan).
The club has, in my opinion, delivered confused and contradictory messages for many years. “The People’s Club”, “The Everton Way”, the persistent use of EitC as a positive symbol (perhaps the only positive symbol) of the football club – all in their turn suggest a lack of strategy, a lack of belief and commitment to our core qualities and an absence of alternative but more relevant, positives for a football club. Some messages can even suggest that football is perhaps not the sole or primary objective. “Sport at the service of humanity” is fine and noble but to be explained as the key philosophy is a radical move in a different direction.
In addition, the branding has (in my opinion) become increasingly parochial. Now there’s a case for saying that local branding is very important given the competitive pressures within the city of Liverpool, but surely that can’t be to the almost total exclusion of anything else either nationally or internationally?
Independent of the promotional activities of the Premier League and its media partners, for Everton, as a stand alone entity, there appears to be little branding globally. Little in terms of resource, but also little in terms of key, core, relevant messaging and partnering.
In what has been a booming market for the Premier League and its participants, for many clubs, branding and the promotion of their core values have seen enormous increases in global fan bases. Fan bases that use technology, buy subscriptions to club generated content delivered across multiple platforms and devices, buy club merchandise readily available overseas and most importantly allow the clubs to build commercial partnerships overseas on the back of fan recognition and engagement.
Without the international brand presence (especially when there is little success on the pitch) all of these expansionary benefits are not available.
So what should the rebrand focus on?
Simple, our club motto. Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.
What does it mean? It means “nothing but the best is good enough”. There’s what should be our core values right there. Everything we do, every aspect of the club’s existence and activities should be enshrined in a genuine commitment to excellence. Our people, our activities should not only be the best they can produce, but the best that can be produced in the sport of football. If they’re not then they have to be replaced – that is the nature of competition and in this case consistent with the brand message.
The companies that strive for excellence, that deliver the message of excellence and most importantly actual perform in an excellent manner win across any sector you care to look at. Excellent companies become industry leaders – it is really that simple.
An unshakeable commitment to excellence that ultimately makes every aspect of your company excellent is always the answer. There are no shortcuts. It’s hard work and it might take time getting there, but that’s the answer and best of all, is wholly consistent with our club motto.
Furthermore, that is what needs to be demanded by fans, employees, players, partners and future partners. If it is delivered then it will lead to improved performance on and off the pitch which in turn then feeds of each other, the virtuous circle.
To succeed though, it needs the commitment of the top of the organisation and a recognition that fresh talent must be brought into the business in order to meet the core value of excellence as measured across football rather than some internal interpretation.
If the club is engaging in a rebrand, then this is encouraging news. If it is a tinkering around the edges of what and who we currently are, it will achieve little in my opinion.
If however, it is a fundamental examination of values, a recognition of what Nil Satis Nisi Optimum really means, what is required to achieve it and then a total commitment to becoming the benchmark of excellence across football then we can achieve true success and be consistent with what I believe should be our values and brand should always be.
Why would we ever not want to be the best there is? Why would our owner never want such? Why would we not ever want others to associate Everton with market leading excellence?
Nil Satis Nisi Optimum