Finding My Girl’s Football Heart: Love, Branding and the NFL
My fiancée and I began seeing each other seriously right before the NFL season began in 2010. She had never been a fan of football; none of the men in her life before me watched. But, it being that blissful time of new romance, she was interested to learn and enjoy things I knew and enjoyed (and likewise — but that’s a blog for another day).
I was pleased beyond words to educate her. Some women I know are so-called football widows: not interested in the game and resentful of the time and attention taken by the gridiron action every weekend from September to February. (That may sound sexist — and I suppose there are men who are football widowers — but our consumer trending partner Iconoculture says not many.) I would much rather have an enthused girlfriend, but how to generate interest? Surely not through detailed descriptions of zone versus man-to-man coverage or the futility of the shotgun draw.
I found the answer when I stumbled upon the correlation between the NFL and her love of branding. It began innocently:
Why did the New Orleans Saints name themselves that — was it because of the song? (“When the Saints Go Marching In” — Yes.)
Where did the Green Bay Packers get a name like that? (They were named for the Indian Meat Packing Company, who funded the team’s first uniforms in 1919.)
Does the home team always wear colored jerseys, and the visiting team white ones? (No, the home team has the choice of wearing colors or whites; so much for gracious hospitality.)
Do the cheerleading squads have names? (Yes; the St. Louis Rams' cheerleaders are the Ewes, for one.)
Do all quarterbacks have low uniform numbers? (Yes; the NFL regulates numbers based on positions, so quarterbacks generally have single digits or teen numbers, while wide receivers are usually in the 80s, defensive linemen are often numbered in the 90s and so on; in branding parlance, we might think of this as a portfolio management system.)
Suddenly she was fascinated! She wanted to know about all the color systems and mascots. She wanted to understand the stories behind all of the identity marks on the helmets. She was fascinated by how some teams sent perceptions of the importance of team legacy by keeping their uniforms simple and old school (such as the New York Giants, who wear the same uniform today as they did from the 1940s to the 1960s), versus those expansion teams who take a decidedly modern approach (like the Seattle Seahawks, whose regionally perfect blue-gray and lime green color system and totem-inspired mark she loves). She compared teams’ past uniforms and logos to the current ones (old St. Louis Rams are better than the current; current Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a significant improvement on the old). She began watching with me and was hooked.
Like every other American, she knew a touchdown was a good thing. But as she continued to watch, she caught on to the strategy of what was happening on the field. She now knows why a blitz can be a wildly effective play, but also how it can backfire. She understands the timing of pass plays and can appreciate why the quarterback will throw it to an empty spot on the field because someone is supposed to be there eventually. She even appreciates the unsung heroes of the NFL — the offensive linemen — and will praise them for opening a hole as much as she celebrates the running back for earning the yardage.
I’m one lucky guy. And it all started with logo marks and color systems as the gateway that hooked my girl — exactly what brand identity is supposed to do.
Tony Vardaro is strategy coordinator at The CSK Group and a lifelong, never-say-die New York Giants fan. Even though he loves living in Colorado, being born and raised in New Jersey is a huge part of his personal brand. In addition to the NY Giants, he is also fully committed to the use of the serial comma.
Editor's Note: All serial commas have been removed for brand consistency.