Formed in 1992, the reputation of the Premier League is built on its exciting football and commercial success. As an organisation, its work off the pitch in support of communities and the wider game was less well known.
Our relationship started in 2014, and if ever there was a brand that needed to prove its true value to society, it was the Premier League.
Perception changing strategy
The Premier League is known for exciting and competitive football by fans the world over. However, our insights demonstrated many groups across society regarded it as money-driven, distant and self-serving, a reputation that if left unchecked was likely to undermine its success in the future.
The reality of the Premier League is not so black and white. It is a highly successful football competition in which clubs and players clearly benefit, but it also invests significant amounts in the wider game where fans, communities and younger people also benefit from its success.
The strategic challenge for the brand was to grow a positive and sustainable reputation; not just associated with excitement and success, but also the good this success enables.
The Premier League needed a brand that could make a positive and emotional connection with fans and non-fans alike, and engage its people, the clubs and partners in a new common purpose.
Purpose driven brand
Achieving change is never easy, but making it happen when the interests of leading clubs, broadcasters and brands are paramount only heightens the challenge.
Robust market insight was essential, conclusions and recommendations had to be bulletproof. Extensive research was conducted to hear the opinions of fans and workshops were run to hear what staff, partners and broadcasters had to say.
The new brand was supported by a set of strategic messages to help audiences understand the connection between the action on the pitch and the good work undertaken off it.
For the first time in its 25 years the Premier League had a clearly defined strategy to grow its brand and reputation on and off the pitch.
Providing strategic direction. We had to work holistically to embed the new brand within the organisation, that meant engaging each department, as well as clubs, partners, broadcasters and agencies.
Marketing. We recruited Design Studio to create a radical new expression of the brand; unifying, digital-first and purpose driven. Working closely with in-house teams, partners and agencies, we acted as strategic co-ordinators to ensure the new brand positioning underpinned all creative thinking in the run up to the start of the 2016/17 season.
Partnerships. With the aim of attracting more family orientated brands, we worked with commercial teams to integrate the new positioning and brand story within the sales process, helping secure new relationships with the likes of Cadbury and Coke.
Communications. We encouraged an editorial change within the organisation, from writing about investment to writing about people. We wanted to use human stories to shift perceptions; showing how football inspires and changes lives so we ran storytelling workshops to explain how to tell compelling stories.
We also created a new tone of voice based on the core values and advised on the branding and messaging round the launch of Premier League Primary Stars communities programme.
Activation teams. We worked with partners and their agencies around the globe to ensure the new brand felt right in broadcast and on-line, as well as in the stadium. We also defined a set of music principles that agencies and partners could use to guide the selection and commissioning of music and artists.
Accountancy firms EY and Deloitte and brand valuation business Brand Finance have all calculated the current brand value at $10.2b, an increase of 40% since the rebrand was introduced.
Brand awareness – Prompted awareness of the brand around the world stands at 69%, an all-time high. Broadcast coverage is up to 188 countries with a weekly global audience of 1bn viewers. In the UK, teachers, parents and children have been drawn to Primary Stars and Super Movers (a JV with BBC Education) through a successful campaign, recruiting over 15,000 primary schools in just 6 months.
Brand reputation – Measurement with both fans and non-fans has shown steady improvement. Notably the brand is now regarded as ‘an icon of British culture’, projecting the UK as ‘modern’ and ‘successful’. Furthermore, the majority think it ‘breaks down barriers with strangers’ and ‘helps connect people’. The new brand identity is consistently referred to as ‘modern’, ‘vibrant’ and ‘youthful’ and receives a positive response from the majority of fans and partners.
Partnerships – Revenues from commercial partners are up, and family favourites such as Cadbury, Coca-Cola and Amazon arrived to connect the brand with a new generation of fans.
Income – The rebrand was never just about money, but while domestic broadcast revenues have slowed (remaining around £5bn), international broadcast revenues have increased and are likely to grow from current £2.3bn to £3.2bn by start of 2019/20 season.
We are incredibly proud of our work with the Premier League and the strength of our relationship. Now in our eighth year, we continue to be excited by the brand and the potential of what is still to come.