There are so many reasons why you should take pride in your team’s branding, of utmost importance is your team identity. This is how the sport recognizes who you are as a team. If you don’t have a strong brand identity on all platforms of your team, you will find that it will translate into your team culture.
There is a reason every team has a logo and team colors. That’s a huge part of your identity. If you aren’t expanding beyond those things, you will have a hard time building your team brand. What do we mean by that?
Ever wondered why those Gold Medal Clubs and NCAA Champion Teams are so recognizable beyond fast swimming? They have a great outfitting culture. Everyone wants to make it to the top but are you working on your team identity and culture along the way?
This is something that not everyone makes a priority to do. Most other sports already have this with jerseys and uniforms that are mandatory, so why can’t swimming be the same in that? Things are busy, you don’t want to press too hard with your Athletic Director or put demands on your swim families to make requirements for branding, but you should. Creating a team culture goes hand in hand with team branding. It is possible, you can do it and do it at a reasonable pace but it’s important to be making strides to get there.
How nice would it be to have your team rolling into that finals session with all matching parkas, caps, backpacks and team suits? It looks awesome, everyone is united, cheering each other on, and proud to represent their team.
Brand identity is also important for recruiting new athletes. They want to know what the team culture is before they sign with your university or switch local club teams. It says more about your team than you realize.
Prioritizing branding will help you with your social media and web presence as well. You will have great content to post, excited swimmers, and a team culture that is untied. Swimmers will see this and want to become a part of your team. Having these things helps you recruit more families and future athletes.
"Well I need to start small, what are some good first steps?" Team caps. Maybe you can’t jump to all the branding items at once but you can definitely make everyone wear a team cap during practice not just when competing at meets. This is an item every swimmer on your team already has, use it to your advantage.
Maybe you already do that and want to take it one step further? Team equipment is an easy way to do that. Wouldn’t it be nice to have your whole training group using the same equipment? The holidays are coming up, work with your team dealer on a wishlist for each group and work with the family’s and athletes to have those items at the start of the new year.
Maybe you do push these things but the parents don’t do what you ask or you get a lot of pushback. This would be a great time to have a parent meeting and discuss team culture and team branding and why it’s important to your team. If you have a sponsor, it’s an even better time to explain that relationship and what they do for your team. Most parents don’t know or understand how much a brand supports your team. If you work with the families and take the time to explain your request, usually they will all get on board, especially if the timeline is reasonable.
Reaching out to your brand representative is also essential. Maybe you could invite them to a parent zoom session with your team or work with them on a bulk discount for your families to make it more reasonable for your families to purchase several of their products. Giving the brand the opportunity to help you embrace team branding only helps them grow their business. It’s in their best interest to help you get started and shows you are supporting them just as much as they support you.
Let’s say you’re a small college with a low budget and your athletes might have responsibilities to purchase what they need. This is a great opportunity to talk about your team culture and identity of your program with them as recruits. Share your vision, let them know what they will become a part of. Having motivated athletes helps bring in your next recruiting class but it also can promote fundraising efforts from alumni and current classes. Just because your budget is small this year doesn’t mean it can grow in a few different ways for the following seasons.
Club Teams, we can’t say this enough, do the car magnets and give them away for free to your families. Parents equally want to feel like they have a place in your team culture. They can also be your best advocates or worst enemies. Maybe that mom has a lot of local friends. She might be loading groceries into her car at the store and a parent she knows sees the magnet and asks her about your team programs. It’s also nice to see all the magnets at swim meets, it helps the newbies find their way and feel included. Parents also drive a lot and usually have kids that are in different activities. Even if a friends child only takes swim lessons with your club, that’s still a revenue source for your club and if you provide great services word will spread in your local community.
Brand identity is essential for success of a program. It matters and there are brands that would love to partner with you. If you have 10 swimmers or over 500, there is a place for you with a brand. Take advantage of the resources available to you, use them to build your team culture, team pride, and grow your program through your brand identity.
Here at Streamline Teams, we want to see you be as successful as can be! Check out our coach forum The Catch, free to all coach members of Streamline Teams. If you are a college or club coach, it is free to become a member of Streamline Teams, we would love to have you join our community! It's a great place to ask questions, network with other coaches, and learn from one another! We can't wait to hear how you embrace your team culture through branding!