Three Branding Lessons from the Super Bowl Champs

After a 50-year drought from even a Super Bowl showing, the Kansas City Chiefs marched forward in their heart-stopping way until — finally — the dry ground gave way to the cool silver of the Vince Lombardi trophy.

Following the victory, online sales of Super Bowl championship merchandise leaped more than 70 percent over last year, according to SportBusiness. But even before that, articles repeatedly dubbed Chiefs fans as some of the most loyal in the league.

That begs the question: How did the Chiefs make their brand so special, despite a rut of losing seasons?

Here are three branding lessons from the 2020 Super Bowl champs:

  1. You don’t have to scrap your entire marketing playbook to cultivate a championship brand.

Presentation and platforms may adapt with the changing times, but the fundamentals remain constant.

“The Chiefs have a very traditional brand,” the team design director, Jordan Giesler, told Dribbble. “We stay true to our roots; we haven’t changed our logo since we moved to Kansas City in 1953, and to me, that’s a fantastic thing.”

The unmistakable red, gold and white, the iconic arrowhead — that’s been part of the Chiefs’ identity for decades, through waning trends and a lengthy dry spell. There’s no question about who they are or the traditions that make up their history — and their future.

  1. Your brand isn’t just about you.

It’s true that a brand communicates about you, but it also communicates about your clients (or fans, in this case). That makes understanding them a vital part of developing your brand.

“It was very important early on for us to identify who we are and what makes our fans tick,” Giesler told Dribbble. “It’s much more than logos or Pantone colors; it’s a mutual understanding, it’s being a fan yourself and delivering a brand that respects the past but also represents the future.”

The Chiefs value their strong community roots and traditions, Giesler said. Even with the hype connected with a Super Bowl appearance, the team prioritized staying true to its identity.

Fans (or clients) must be able to relate with the brand identity, which is a key motivator when it comes to how many tickets or jerseys (or lawsuits?) they’re willing to buy.

  1. Know the fundamentals, then be creative.

While tradition and identity are important, what’s truly impressive is to define a unique style within those parameters.

Although Giesler offered this advice specifically to rookie designers hoping for a foothold in the sports industry, it rings true on a broader scale. He recommended practicing the basics — in that instance, motion, typography, the fundamentals of design — and using that knowledge to diversify a style that goes beyond a photoshopped graphic. Extrapolated to the business world, that can mean understanding the most effective building blocks for your client communications, then being creative within those bounds.

Kind of like how Patrick Mahomes takes the field, knows the plays, then improvises — with a 27-yard, tackle-breaking rush for a touchdown. Or a no-look pass. Or some other yet-to-be-seen phenomenon.

A post-game huddle

Whether you’re a firm or a football team, to build a premium brand, you must hone in on what makes you special, what you excel at, the experience of the people you really love to help, and put that out there. Then, you just keep doing you at your highest level.

And it never hurts to shore up a dynamite brand with a world-class victory.