On 15 September 2016, SportsPro’s annual event, The Brand Conference, returns to Lord’s Cricket Ground for a day full of discussions, panel sessions and round tables focusing on brand, fan and rights holder engagement.
Vincent Gaillard, the chief executive of European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), the body which has run elite European rugby club competitions since the demise in 2014 of the Heineken Cup, is one of TBC’s high-profile speakers.
Gaillard will be talking at the event about the challenges rights holders face in establishing an identity that can connect with audiences and sponsors alike. He will also be discussing his extensive experience on the brand side, having run programmes for IOC top sponsor Coca-Cola at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games, as well as having worked at organisations including SportAccord and the NBA.
Here, he talks to SportsPro about the challenges of creating EPCR’s identity, and the journey he has been on in developing brands.
How have you addressed the challenge of creating a new brand for European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) and its competitions?
Those aware of our recent history – ERC transitioning to EPCR, Heineken Cup to Champions Cup, etc – will appreciate the magnitude of the challenge. Essentially, it was about developing a radically new, innovative and impactful visual identity while not losing sight of the rich heritage of 20 years of Heineken Cup.
We needed to develop a much more open, flexible visual identity that could accommodate several of our brands – EPCR, Champions Cup, Challenge Cup, and additional competitions in the future – and the integration with multiple commercial partners.
How far through that process are you now? What's to come?
While we now have brand names and logotypes which we are very happy with, it is still very early days for us. The visual identity for both ‘corporate EPCR’ and our various competitions need to be developed with more depth, we need to have a clearer strategy defining when we need to communicate ‘corporate EPCR’ v competitions, when to combine Champions and Challenge Cup together, etc.
We will soon be launching a new brand name for what is currently known as the ‘Challenge Cup Qualifying Competition’ and is in need of a more palatable name. And as these brands are all relatively new, we need to build awareness…
When creating an identity for a sporting competition, how do you go about ensuring you have something that leaves room for sponsors and other brands?
The main criteria, of course, are a visual identity that has strong intrinsic qualities, one which reflects the positioning and values of the competition and that is flexible enough to accommodate the integration with multiple commercial partners.
The days of standardised composite logos – competition plus partner logo with a bar in the middle – are most definitely over, for the better, and a visual identity allowing a creative integration with that of commercial partners is essential to drive more efficient partner activations, which is what any rights-holder should ultimately aim for.
What were the most important lessons you learned about branding in sport from your time at Coca-Cola?
I learned plenty of lessons, as you will imagine, particularly in relation to managing the co-existence of multiple owned brands with each different targets and messages in a similar sporting environment. This was the case with brands Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero, Powerade and Vitaminwater around the London 2012 Olympics for instance.
A clear strategy and brands that can engage fans in different contexts and geographies is essential, as is the need to protect the brands’ reputation and integrity by delivering against consumer expectations.
How will major sponsors be working to differentiate themselves around the Olympic Games later this year? How does that challenge differ from others in sport?
The clean stadium policy at Olympic Games forces sponsors to be much more creative with their activation programs, which is a good thing. The differentiation and the ability to cut through the clutter will as always be the result of quality strategic planning, the ‘ownership’ of a given communication space, the creation of engaging, “liquid” content and the ability to activate at 360 degrees across mainstream and digital media, retail, experiential, etc.
Are there any major trends in branding – in or out of sport – that you think will be particularly influential in the years ahead?
Branding must translate into exciting, relevant, multi-media content – including user-generated content – that consumers can engage with, own and share, in different contexts. Content gives more depth and, hopefully, more authenticity to the brand, and needs to be ‘liquid’ enough to be adaptable and sharable across different platforms, in the physical and digital world. Finding true relevance and cutting through the clutter will always be the greatest challenge however.
What are your expectations for The Brand Conference? What do you hope to achieve?
I hope to be inspired by what other rights holders do with their brands, and to get a good perspective on trends and innovations in the sector.
To claim your 25% discount for SportsPro's The Brand Conference at Lord's Cricket Ground on 15 September, use code 'GSJ25SPTBC' and register here.