Title pretty much says it all. Dan reached out to me earlier this summer about doing a guest post discussing the branding of NPSL Club Minneapolis City. This post covers why the team chose the brand it did, and explains how owning your brand, no matter what others think, is critical.
It feels apropos, with Minneapolis City getting trolled for the success of our brand and hype machine, to talk about brand, the famous logo and why us being us is the key to our success.
Twitter drove our launch because it is a vehicle, more than any, for people to converse with a brand. That was important to us because, unlike a corporate brand, we were going the supporter-owned, community club route and we very much wanted the club to be a collection of people working together. To make that happen, our brand had to be person-like, which meant it had to be authentically us.
What was authentically us? We knew, of course. But we had never found the words to write it down. Going through the branding process beyond just logo design forced us to define, embrace and be the club we wanted to be. It focused our thinking. It helped us express our values. It gave us something to live up to.
It was fun.
I have spent my career in advertising, but working on wholesome brands like Subaru, Intel and Delta Air Lines. This was a chance to do something different and to do it with friends/work buddies Jon Bisswurm and Trent Edwards.
When working on a project like this, there are a few things that we tell our clients to do:
Have a point of view.
That is where we started.
Be authentic. Minneapolis City grew out of the men's league club Stegman's, which was started by Jon Bisswurm, Nick Sindt and me. We called ourselves professionally amateur. We were over-the-top, loud and didn't give a shit. Also, were swore in the way that a "proper corporation" wouldn't because we weren't a proper corporation. We are--and are--a group of regular people who have banded together to build something. That means that we are, and so our brand has to be, more personal, less constructed and not at all polished. We are who we are.
Have a point of view. We believe there is a right way to soccer: supporter owned, community oriented, charitably focused. We have structured our organization toward these beliefs, with sacrifices made for us to do what is right: no equity for founders, no importing non-Minnesotan players, putting time and dollars toward good causes. We act how we talk. And we talk about the right way to soccer, which puts some people off.
Over-commit. Because we have a personality, because we believe in things, and because we are different, we knew that there would be people who didn't like what we were doing. We didn't shrink from who we are. We embraced it. We went over the top with it. We were a beacon for others who thought that soccer should be supporter owned, community oriented, and charitably focused--and a place for people who wanted to build a club and have fun doing it.
We over-committed to our brand in our typically over-the-top way.
Famously in lower division soccer circles, we looked past the traditionally-styled logos for a weird and delightful pentagon with type inside. It was different--and awesome. When the inevitable criticism came our way there were no apologies. We didn't withdraw the logo and focus group a bland new one. We went all in on it, facing down the loud internet criticism with Grumpy Cat memes that were a friendly digital middle finger to the haters.
The logo and font (and Grumpy Cat) were the foundation for the brand and, with a homemade, raw style, we pulled it through uniforms and programs and other elements, and we backed it up with our outspoken presence on social media.
We even won an award for our logo design. And we owned that "accolade" too.
Then, because we do what we want, we launched a beautiful throwback logo (and associated uniform and gear) before we had even played our first game.
The Twin Cities is a hugely competitive market. Every major pro sport is represented, including MLS' Minnesota United. Minor league and fringe sports abound. There are two other NPSL clubs in the Cities and a further two within two hours drive.
And yet, by doing what we've done we've gotten noticed. Noticed! Noticed well beyond our relative weight. Features in The Growler, Star Tribune, Huffington Post, FiftyFive.One, City Pages, American Pyramid and on and on.
Noticed is so important for clubs at our level, and getting noticed has allowed us to build a committed fan following, which allows us to operate in a financially sustainable way, which attracts good players, which fuels our continued growth, and so on to an eternity of goodness.
As a club, Minneapolis City is far more than its brand. And yet, because we spent the time to build a brand that reflected who we were, with a strong reason why we existed (beyond "to win games"), and a commitment to over-commit, our brand has helped us become far more than when we started.
We will continue to get trolled, attacked and kicked when we stumble, but we're okay even with that. Having haters is a sign that you stand for something and you matter, and without those two things there is no success for a club at this level.
Anyway, we'll just laugh at the haters, probably via animated gif.