3 opportunities re-branding international sport provides for national federations

Fed logos

First published on TSE Consulting.

This past weekend I was in Tashkent, Uzbekistan where representatives of the sport of Wrestling worldwide moved to adopt a new brand, including name and logo, for their international governing body - and with that, FILA (the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles) became United World Wrestling. Since World Archery made the bold move to re-brand in 2011, we have seen other sports follow suit, including World Bowling and most recently World Rugby. I have no doubt that other federations will soon follow. Every time an international federation takes this bold step, some people are supportive of the change while others quite critical. It is normal to have people on both sides of any kind of change. But what has surprised me in each instance, is that I have heard the national federations of the sport in question comment that the change in branding doesn't really affect them. It is something that is happening at the international level. As a result, I fear that not enough national federations really consider the direct opportunities that these new brands create for them. Before going in to these opportunities, let's have a quick look at the reasons for the international federations making the decisions to rebrand and their approaches to this process.

Each of these organisations has launched new brands with a common desire to become more consumer-friendly. Despite this common overall goal, each of the three organisations that has recently made the move - World Archery, World Bowling and World Wrestling - show different approaches.

In the case of World Archery, the focus was on creating a brand architecture that would create a stronger link between international, continental and national Archery organisations. With the introduction of World Archery we also saw the option being given to continental and national associations to use the new brand as well, for example: World Archery - Europe or World Archery - Switzerland. For Bowling, the new brand focused on linking sports, where for the first time nine-pin and ten-pin bowling now fall under the same umbrella organisation making the bowling 'family' more united. Finally, United World Wrestling has chosen to focus on creating a common brand across the organisation and its products - mainly its World and Continental Championships.Despite these three different approaches, each of these new brands create certain opportunities for national federations.

Here are just some of these opportunities:

  • Being part of an international brand with 'offices' around the world makes your 'office' appear stronger. This is very much the style of larger multinationals such as PwC, for example. These organisations generally have a mixture of both large and small offices around the world. But no matter what the size of the office, the strength of the international brand provides a seal of approval. Some PwC offices may just be one person, but the international brand recognition makes potential clients believe that it is much stronger. The stronger the international brand, the stronger each office attached to that brand becomes. Similarly, where international governing bodies have adopted a new a consumer-oriented brand, if this is managed in the right way, it will become more recognised globally, thus allowing the national federation (or 'office') the opportunity to tap into this brand recognition at the national level. Especially smaller national federations can utilise this opportunity greatly. However, a clear link between the international and national federation must be visible.

  • Being part of an organisation that is moving forward provides you with an interesting new story. The international federation will get a lot of media coverage from their change of brand, as well as have a new story to share with potential partners including the International Olympic Committee, corporate and public partners, among others. As the national representative, this is your story to share as well! So, start talking about it! As soon as an international federation makes such a big move, it provides a good story for national federations to share with the national media, the national Olympic committee and commercial and public sector partners (or potential future partners!). It's a great time to set up a meeting to inform these parties, showing them that your sport is moving forward in a positive direction and you are at the heart of this move in your country.

  • An international change of mindset in the sport can represent the start of a new mindset in your country. A change, whether it be rebranding or something else, represents a new mindset throughout the sport. Change in sport is not easy, so when it is accomplished it represents a commitment from all levels of the sport. So, when your sport is making a move on the international level, use the energy this creates to facilitate a change of mindset at the national level as well. Instigate an internal discussion of how your national federation can support the movement that is being made at the international level, and potentially even make bigger steps in your organisation.

The launch of the new international brand is not something to simply be applauded at the Congress, but something that each and every national federation should consider seriously. Each national federation can reflect on how they can use the opportunity to benefit the sport in their own country. Taking the case of Archery, who have now had a few years operating under their new brand, I have seen positive results for their respective continental and national organisations. I look forward to seeing more positive outcomes from the other national federations whose international leadership is paving the way for change.

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