Wolves without sheep’s clothing: branding from within

Mark Sammartino
April 4, 2013

One of the essential ingredients of any branding project is authenticity. When communicating a brand’s identity, we strive to create an association, an emotional connection, and a reason to believe.

In many corporate branding exercises, this is inherently manufactured to some extent, and can sometimes feel contrived. So the challenge is, and always has been, to strike a chord with your target audience.

But what happens when this is flipped; when you have an existing ‘brand’ built on the passion and belief of loyal supporters, from which you need to create a corporate identity that will endure, grow and prosper in a commercial market?

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This was the task facing the Wolves Football Club, an institution in the English FA for well over 130 years. With a history of being a tough, hard club, its reputation was tarnished by an association with hooliganism during the 60s, 70s and 80s, so the club decided to move with the times and the demands of the modern business world.

As many of you will understand, football clubs in this part of the world are dragged along at times by the passion of the fans alone. So when developing a new identity, the cornerstone of any new direction is to embrace the passion that already exists. The opportunity – and the challenge – therefore lies in developing an entity that not only sits comfortably in the world of big business and multimillion-pound deals, but also embraces the cultural phenomenon that the fans have created over generations.

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What I like about the corporate identity the Wolves FC has developed is that it is underpinned by the passion of the fans. It is real, not manufactured, and creates a platform for the club to embark on the commercial realities of running a big business. It is emblazoned on the wall – with real quotes, from real fans – and creates a sense of belonging at every touch-point. In contrast to many corporate identities, it truly embodies the ‘DNA’ of the organisation.

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Not only do we get a sense of history and pride from this identity, but a compelling, modern interpretation of an age-old institution. It is a refreshing take on rebranding, in which emotion is not manufactured but harnessed – and evolved to suit the times.

As an example of seeking the truth within, the Wolves FC identity offers a great lesson for any branding project; that the first question should always be ‘what lies at the heart of our organisation?’.

Mark Sammartino is Creative Director at Wellmark.

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