Last week, Sporting Clube de Portugal launched their #NotSportingLisbon campaign in reference to a common problem: The club is often mistakenly referred to as Sporting Lisbon instead of Sporting Clube de Portugal, their original name. Twitter users embraced the campaign and started inviting other clubs that often have their names misrepresented, such as Inter, Celtic FC, and others, to join the campaign.
The problem can be explained as follows (Wikipedia, retrieved 1 August 2015):
Within Portugal, Sporting Clube de Portugal is often referred to simply as “Sporting” or “Sporting Portugal”. Outside Portugal, the club has attempted to shed this name in an effort to become known abroad by its correct name. Despite this, some non-Portuguese media still uses Sporting Lisbon due to precedent and to avoid confusion with other clubs.
The following paragraphs will shortly discuss what a brand name encompasses, why it is important to hold control over a brand name, and we will give an example how Sporting Clube de Portugal could keep tighter control over their brand’s name.
What’s in a brand name
Matthew D. Shank (2002:265) explains that a brand name refers to the element of the brand that can be vocalized [such as Sporting Clube de Portugal]; and when selecting a team name, considerable marketing effort is required to ensure the name symbolizes strength and confidence. To build upon that, Melanie Wells (Forbes, 2001) asks the question, ‘Why are people drawn to cult brands?’ and explains that people want to be part of something larger than themselves, something that may precede them and outlive them; furthermore, some cult brands offer a community experience. According to Sue Bridgewater (2010:12), certain brands have manufactured names which have been created to reflect the values of a brand; she adds that the internal identity of a brand comprises the core values of the organization and should be simple, credible, and justifiable.
It can be argued that the altered club name Sporting Lisbon misrepresents the core value of uniting the entire country of Portugal with the club – or brand – instead of only the city of Lisbon, as can be suggested from the official club name Sporting Clube de Portugal. In regard to the vocalisation and symbolisation of the brand name, we assume that Sporting Clube de Portugal has invested a considerable amount of resources – tangible and intangible – into creating the club’s name in 1906 and its stakeholders are proud of the given brand name. Because of that, altering the name – hence, misrepresenting its values – can to a certain degree be regarded offensive towards the club and its sympathisers. Furthermore, as Sporting Clube de Portugal belongs to The Big Three football clubs in Portugal, with 120,000 club members, it is safe to consider the club a Portuguese cult brand. This fact strengthens the appeal to use an unaltered club name in all communication – even from unaffiliated third parties.
Keeping control over the brand name
John Simmons and Matt Simmons (2006:54) recount how Herbert Chapman, Arsenal manager from 1925 to 1934, persuaded London Underground to rename Gillespie Road station ‘Arsenal’ in 1932, because he realised the absolute importance of the first principle of branding: Get the product [and its name] right. Bouchet et al. (2013:69) underline the previous point by claiming, “For sport clubs and leagues, identity is often linked with history, traditions and trophies and the older more successful they are, the stronger the identity will be.” According to Mark P. Pritchard (In Ed. Pritchard and Stinson, 2014:129), symbolic attachment to the brand as a means for self-representation appears to be one of the consistent themes across much of the work on loyal attachment, which involves brands being purchased or patronised not so much for functional reasons but for what it means for a patron to align with the brand.
It becomes obvious from the three above-mentioned reasons for a brand manager to keep tight control over a brand name. First, the brand name, hence, its respective product, shall be recognisable at any time, in any writing, in any context. Second, a cult brand, such as Sporting Clube de Portugal, carries traditions and values, which increase in importance with every new event that passes by. Third, self-representation is at its highest for patrons and sympathisers when the club is referred to with its unaltered name.
How the STAMP model can keep tighter control over our brand
In his 2012 book Digital Leader: 5 simple keys to success and influence, Erik Qualman describes the five habits of digital leadership, which form the acronym STAMP: simple, true, act, map, people. In this section we will briefly give an idea how Sporting Clube de Portugal could apply the model to make sure the brand name and the wanted identity is carried correctly through online and (potentially) offline channels, while the club holds control over its brand identity.
Simple. “…in a digitally paced world success is dependent on simplification” (Qualman, 2012:11). Apparently, the club’s name gets altered by third-party media to avoid confusion with other clubs. A possible simplification effort in communication could be to embrace a name shortener, which is already in use. For example, SportingCP is used by the club on its YouTube and Twitter channel. Embracing said shortener strategically and communicating it to all necessary stakeholders with the right incentives, might give the club the upper hand in winning back control over the brand identity.
True. “…know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. (Qualman, 2012:88)” As mentioned above, the club values its representation of the entire country of Portugal, not only the city of Lisbon. Including, or better, focusing on messages that address that representation emphasises the cross-regional ambition of the club.
Act. “Start thinking less about what you can take from this world and more about what you can give back. (Qualms, 2012:147)” Obviously, Sporting Clube de Portugal takes matters in their own hands and actively promotes its causes, just like the #NotSportingLisbon campaign. An active multichannel two-way communication with all stakeholders ensures that the club’s brand identity is portrayed and transported according to the club’s vision.
Map. “Goals and visions are needed to get where you want to be. (Qualman, 2012:2)” In the case at hand, the goal is obvious: SportingCP wants to reclaim their real name and identity. The club’s online activities suggest that the strategy is based on animating fans and followers to spread the word and raise awareness in regard to the misrepresentation of their brand name on international media platforms.
People. “You’re friends and followers are digital currency: invest in them early and often, because nobody achieves greatness alone. (Qualman, 2012:215)” It can be observed that SportingCP is well aware of the meaning that lies within the above statement. The club actively addressed various Twitter users in regard to the #NotSportingLisbon campaign motivating them to join the movement. Including friends and followers can launch to a snowball effect that leads to a viral campaign, hence, completely reclaiming the Sporting Clube de Portugal brand identity.
Not having complete control over one’s brand name, respectively brand identity, can affect a brand’s value. Incorrect representation can have an impact on the message the brand wants to transport to their target audience. Because of that, I highly suggest that clubs invest enough resources to make sure even the least affiliated and least knowledgable third-parties understand the brand name and its respective identity. This can be done with a well-crafted active two-way communication that follows a dynamic online and offline marketing communications strategy.