Usually, I try to stay away from referencing professional sport organizations as examples of brand or marketing issues. In many cases, it is just too difficult to draw a parallel to a relevant business situation.
But a recent article in Sports Illustrated about the US Soccer Federation drew my attention. In the last few months, US Soccer has faced its fair share of public relations issues – from the USWNT’s court case against FIFA re playing conditions; to Hope Solo’s ongoing legal issues; to the inconsistent performances by the USMNT; to recent incidents involving Abby Wambach (DUII charges) and pay equity complaints; the sport has had a lot to deal with lately.
In spite of its growing popularity in North America, or perhaps because of it, the game has come under scrutiny for all the wrong reasons in recent months. So what has this got to do with marketing?
Many of the recent incidents involve in-fighting within US Soccer – USMNT members making statements about Hope Solo, Wambach making statements about the USMNT, the USMNT team making statements about Wambach, and the men’s team (current and former) making statements about the current national team coach and technical director.
This might all seem like a natural progression for a sport growing exponentially in America – except for one small problem. The US Soccer Federation’s current slogan, and much of its brand positioning, is built around the slogan “One Nation, One Team”! Without getting into the politics of the sport (as this article most certainly does) there is only one conclusion that can be drawn from the article – the positioning line is not a true reflection of the reality within US Soccer.
Which, from a marketing standpoint, creates two options –
- Change the reality within the organization
- Change the positioning to reflect the current (and future) situation
Given what is going on within the organization, I would assume that the latter will be a lot easier.