David Fleming’s ESPN.com column, Are the Steelers the Greatest Franchise?, compared the Steelers success of the past 35 years to that of other sports teams and lauded the organization for maintaining a winning franchise over the long haul.
The article didn’t mention it, but the franchise has also been successful at the marketing game. The special relationship the team has with members of Steelers’ Nation proves to be a case study in how to build and maintain a strong brand:
Leadership and Vision: The Rooney family has owned the team since the 1930’s and has instilled the company vision and values throughout the organization. They lead with the big picture in mind while many of their contemporaries have made knee jerk decisions in search of instant gratification.
Understand Your Target Market and Meet Their Needs: On the field, the team has subscribed to a hard nosed philosophy based on staunch defense and the ability to run the ball. The style matches the ethos of the region: Work hard, play hard.
Cultivate Brand Loyalty Through Consistency: Noll, Cowher, Tomlin…Franco, The Bus, Fast Willie…Defense, Defense, Defense. Customers become loyal, passionate believers because they know what to expect. Games become events, like extra holidays that families schedule their activities around.
Keep It Simple: It doesn’t take long for someone to recognize the Terrible Towel and know what it stands for. The Steelers uniforms have looked pretty much the same since forever. Even the name of the team’s stadium–Heinz Field-quickly registers with even casual fans.
Less is More. The Steelers stay true to the core product: football in its purest form. No cheerleaders on the sideline. Owners don’t try to become celebrities. Players who make it about “Me” are either ignored in the draft or soon gone from the team. Can you say Plaxico?
The Steelers have remained focused on their vision and values for forty years. On the field, the results have been super, as in six Super Bowl wins. Off the field, the Steelers have created a Super Brand known throughout the world.
David M. Mastovich is the President of Massolutions, a strategic marketing firm that focuses on improving the bottom line for client companies. Massolutions develops, implements and evaluates integrated marketing, development, public relations and communications programs that increase awareness, revenue and market share for clients.