Why Don’t More Sports Organizations Use Taglines?

Famous Tag LinesSome of the most memorable companies and campaigns in history are defined by memorable taglines. “Just Do It” from Nike is the most famous in sports. Other famous lines include:

• The Ultimate Driving Machine (BMW)
• Got Milk? (California Milk Processor Board, and formerly the Milk Processor Education Program, aka MilkPEP)
• Think Different (Apple)
• The Few. The Proud. The Marines. (Marine Corps)
• Every Kiss Begins with Kay (Kay Jewelers)

There are numerous lists of the best advertising slogans, but let’s look specifically in the Olympic world and the lack of taglines.

The more time I spent digging into sports taglines, the more I found very few of us have them at all. I am not talking about year-long “year of the fan” ticket sales promotions or college sports media guide slogans, but true organization-wide taglines. For this blog, my definition is an organization that has a tagline incorporated into its main logo as part of its web site, which is one of its most visible assets.

For example, the NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL, USOC and MLS don’t incorporate a tagline.

In fact, in an audit of all the sports in the Olympic world, only four are actually using a tagline on their respective web site.

U.S. Tennis Association – Find Yourself in the Game
USA Curling – Dare to Curl
USA Luge – The Fastest Sport on Ice
USA Diving – Guts. Grace. Glory

Other organizations do have taglines, but they have been incorporated into specific uses vs. globally across the organization, such as USA Swimming’s America’s Swim Team line.

The big, and more interesting, question for sports organizations is “Why Don’t We Use Taglines?” Below are my theories on why they aren’t more prevalent:

Lack of a Direct Competitor: For many sports organizations, there aren’t direct competitors. We certainly compete for “share of mind” with other sports, video games, inactivity, etc., but most leagues and National Governing Bodies don’t have a direct competitor. When that’s the case, there’s less of a perceived need to differentiate. The “Ultimate Driving Machine” tagline from BMW would never happen without Mercedes.
5 Pounds of Potatoes in a 10 Pound Bag: As leagues and NGBs we do so many different things and our audiences as varied as a flea market sometimes. We serve members, athletes, coaches, volunteers, boards, officials, fans, etc. Each audience is so unique, that organizations can easily struggle to capture that breadth in an all-encompassing message.
Non-Profit Mentality: We see ourselves as non-profit organizations and sometimes lose sight that we are brands as powerful as many of the top companies in the world. In fact, we have even more influence in people’s lives as we have the opportunity to bring sports into people’s lives.
Non-Profit Reality: Non-profits rarely have the budget luxury of doing major brand and advertising campaigns. It’s easy to focus on the problem/opportunity of the day and we don’t always step back and look at the big picture.
Olympic Dependency: NGBs in particular can have an over-reliance on the Olympic halo and sometimes lose sight of the charge to grow grassroots. Many people are shocked when I tell them I spend only a small percentage of my work life on the Olympic or elite side of the sport and most of it on the organization itself or grassroots development efforts.

With more sports than ever vying for families’ attention, it might be time for us to borrow the mentality of one of the greatest taglines ever and “Think Different.”


Categories: Marketing, Olympics

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