Cut From the Same Cloth: The Power of Sports Swag

Sports and sporting events have always been a central aspect of my life. I grew up in California so we enjoyed all things related to the San Francisco Giants, Golden State Warriors, and San Francisco 49ers. In addition to all my California teams, I also had ties to Notre Dame because of my grandfather, a diehard fan of the Fighting Irish. I’ve realized that the teams I love and the gear I wear with pride are a reflection of different elements of my life—of each family member or fundamental experience that has influenced me to become who I am today.

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As the first daughter to a dad who is a huge sports fan, the sports-loving culture was surely passed on to me—and I embraced it! My first job was working for a minor league baseball team. When I went to college in San Diego, I became a San Diego Chargers fan. And although I have had allegiances to different teams throughout my life, each team and city continue to hold a special place in my heart―and my swag shows it! It constantly amazes me how quickly I can make friends when wearing my sports gear, even when far from home.

I was recently sitting at breakfast wearing a Notre Dame hat when a couple came up to me and said, “Go Irish! Are you from South Bend?” I said, “YES, Go Irish! But no, I have never even been to South Bend” [in Indiana, where Notre Dame is located]. I went on to tell the couple that my grandfather was a big fan and I’ve loved the team ever since I can remember―it was mandatory! My grandfather was the guy who had a wristwatch that played the Notre Dame Fight song and we had to know all the words by the time we knew our A-B-C’s.

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When I was up in the Bay Area at a Giants game, I spotted a hooded sweatshirt that I absolutely had to have. Despite knowing the price was unreasonable, I was totally fine with spending nearly one hundred dollars on a sweatshirt that donned my team’s insignia! It was this precious gear that allowed me to be a part of the tribe at the game. For the Giants, it pays for itself twofold. They have created a community in a group of loyal fans who will wear their insignia with pride whether they win or lose. They have truly connected people―not just with each other, but with the team. And that connection is the most influential thing a brand can do. With each sweatshirt sale, their fan base grows, their reach grows, their pockets grow, and most of all the fun in all of it grows. Everyone loves to be a fan and show team spirit!

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I started in the promo industry after college as a brand manager buying promotional products. I quickly became enamored with the sales side and face-to-face interaction with clients, so promotional product sales became a natural career choice for me. Ten years later, I am in a position where I can create meaningful connections between people and organizations through branded merchandise. My strong ties to sports paraphernalia and loyalty to my favorite teams are likely some of the reasons why I love my job—I get to give kids and adults alike the opportunity to collect and wear items that make them feel proud to love their team. Sports paraphernalia instantly produces a common thread between strangers―allegiance to the same team. It’s all about that feeling that we belong to the same community, that immediate sense of pride we share―we feel like we come from the same place, and understand each other on a different level. The fact that a simple product can evoke such a feeling shows just how powerful promotions can be.

Recently I have had a lot of fun building Brand Love for sports teams. I have been able to come up with all sorts of great items that my teams can brand to use as promotions at game nights. We’ve built an entire fan merchandise website that got immediate press for all the different types of items fans can purchase to root for the San Diego Gulls. In my experience, there are a few elements that make sports promotions impactful: the color, style, usefulness, and of course, the fact that it gives power to the fans! These are the pillars that guided the selection of items in the store for the Gulls, and have led to its success.

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All brands can take something away from the sports fanatic approach to building Brand Love. Regardless of what industry you’re in, the bottom line is that the most successful companies make real connections with their audience and build a community around their brand. Brand loyalty is built by the people who resonate, feel, and connect on the same wavelength as you do. And despite how different each person’s background or personal history may be, they can all feel united in a similar purpose, loyal to the same team. I see more and more of my clients on corporate marketing and human resources teams planning for their employees and sales teams in the same fashion. Those that do it well “win” in a similar way that sport teams do.

Much of the new generation of professionals want to feel like they are really a part of the organization they work for right away. The more team-oriented you can get with welcome kits, new hire packets, team building events, sales meetings and tradeshows, the more “Brand-Loving” employees you have. Then what happens? Employees spread their Brand Love in all they do when interacting with clients and colleagues and the tribe grows. We all win!

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Want to learn more about creating Brand Love? Check out our website to find out how the power of cutting-edge technology alongside a team of creative experts can deliver moments of connection between brands and the people they care about.

One response to “Cut From the Same Cloth: The Power of Sports Swag”

  1. Congratulations Stephanie! This is amazing! I’m very proud of you! You Go Girl!

    (Allison DeWildt’s aunt)

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