The Super Bowl Of Branding


I’m like most people I know, excited, for the Super Bowl!  

I don’t know if it is the game (probably not), the party (maybe), or the commercials (maybe), but I do know that the two teams playing on Sunday can teach us a thing or two about branding and messaging.  

First, let’s talk about the Green Bay Packers.  

What is their brand and message?  And, how does this team that they bring to the Super Bowl fit into that?  

When I think of the Packers, I think of these things:  innovative offense, great quarterback, well coached, and winners.  

How does this Packers team match up with that…

The Packers offense is multi faceted and explosive.  Not Lombardi’s power sweep offense, but a juiced up West Coast Offense that can score points in bunches.  

Aaron Rodgers is a great QB, who I expect will only get better in coming years.  Does he compare favorably to Brett Favre and Bart Starr at this point?  Its too early to tell, but so far he has done a good job of making the Packers his team and allowing the team to know that they can count on him to deliver a solid performance.  

Coaching?  Mike McCarthy joins Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren as the only two coaches to take the Packers to the Super Bowl.  McCarthy is a bit different than the other two, but where he does compare favorably is how he worked his way up the ranks, learning under other great coaches and finally got a chance to be a Head Coach because of the Packers.  Now, like Holmgren and Lombardi, McCarthy’s teams are prepared and focused and obviously can overcome adversity.  

Winners?  If the fact that they are in the Super Bowl doesn’t say they are winners, look at the path this team took to get to the game.  Injuries that would have knocked most teams out of the playoffs completely, overcome.  A road that required them to beat the top 3 teams in the NFC, all on the road?  Done.  So these guys are already winners.  So, yes, check!  

Now on to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

These things come to mind when someone says Pittsburgh Steelers to me:  punishing defense, coaching stability, great quarterback play, and a great running game.  

Defense!  Defense!  This year’s team is compared favorably to the ‘Steel Curtain’ defenses of the past.  Like those, the Steelers have great linebackers and a good defensive line.  So defense is definitely a strength again in Pittsburgh.  

Coaching stability.  Can you name all of the coaches in Steelers’ history….I bet you can if you are at all a football fan, because there have only been 3.  Chuck Knoll, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin.  How’s that for stability in the franchise?  Both New York teams have had that many since I have lived here.  Or, the Seahawks have had that many within the last 3 years.  

Quarterback play.  Yes, you can call Big Ben any sort of name or mock him for his behavior..its easy, but you can’t knock his ability to make plays.  Did you see the way he shut down the Jets’ Super Bowl hopes?  Did you see the throw he made to beat Arizona the last time the Steelers were in the Super Bowl?  So despite what you might think of him as a person, he is right there with the other great Steelers’ QB, Terry Bradshaw.  

Great running game!  I’m old school.  I love a good running game, so think about these names:  Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis, Merril Hoge and a few other guys…but even if Rashard Mendenhall doesn’t get into the top 5 all time, he is still a good solid running back that the Steelers can use to control the clock and set up the pass.  So, again, true to form.  

I know that I simplified the message and brand of the Packers and Steelers a little bit, but even the simplified version can tell you a little about branding and messaging.  

1.  Pick a story and consistently tell it.  Why do the Packers always have great QBs?  Why are the Steelers’ defenses always great?  Partly because you need good quarterback play and a strong defense to win championships, but, also, once you establish an identity and use that identity to tell a story, it is easy to consistently tell that story and it begins to become a part of your identity.  

2.  Planning allows you to adjust and stay consistent.  I only touched on this a bit with the Packers injuries, but the Steelers didn’t have Big Ben at the beginning of the season, but because they mapped out a strategy and stayed true to that, they were able to succeed.  The Packers suffered injuries that would have taken down almost any other team, but they had a plan and they stuck with their strategy and they are in the Super Bowl.  So plan ahead, planning allows you to have confidence when things jump in the way.  And, then, you can adjust without freaking out over some adversity because you have a plan and you can always make corrections within the structure of your plan.  

As for the game, well, I am going to say Packers 31-27.  

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