SquashTalk > The Spin > The Marketing of Squash: Column One in a Series -- Too many Brands?
The Quest to Market Squash: Too Many Brands ?
Oct 4, 210, Commentary by Ron Beck © 2010 SquashTalk.com , Independent News; SquashTalk LLC
(updated 4-oct-10 20:57
AN IN DEPTH MARKETING ANALYSIS: FIRST IN A SERIES
|About the Author: Ron Beck is a trained and experienced marketing professional. Working in the marketing arena for over 27 years, he has marketed for small and large organizations. He holds an executive marketing certificate in International Marketing from the Boston College School of Business. He has experience in all phases of marketing, from strategy to tactics to programs and has held senior marketing roles in the USA, Europe and Asia. Beck was a professional squash player for eight years and served as executive director of USA College Squash for 7 years. He is the founder and publisher of SquashTalk.|
Squash has too many brands and too many groups promoting those cacaphonous brands. This fatal flaw acts to dissipate the prodigious potential power of worldwide squash. I will explain why and what to do about it in this first column on a series on the marketing of the sport of squash.
Squash. It is a great sport. Participation is vibrant. Players are fanatical in support of the sport. The support is supported by money. Lots of it. The demographics are great. In the USA squash squash is growing in schools and colleges. Worldwide, squash has a strong groundswell of growth in a healthy diversity of countries.
So what's wrong? Why can't squash get the publicity, notice and news that we (the squash community) believe it deserves?
This series will look at that problem from the point of view of the effectiveness of the marketing of the sport.
One of the first things to look at in an assessment such as this is the branding of the "product" - in this case the sport of squash.
Squash has a confusing array of so-called governing bodies. Here are a few: World Squash Federation (WSF), Professional Squash Association (PSA), Women's International Squash Professionals (WISPA), England Squash, US Squash, Egypt Squash, Malaysian Squash, College Squash Association (CSA) [of the US], New England Independent Schools Squash (NISRA) representing fifty-some school programs, Urban Squash. New Zealand Squash, European Squash, ... the list goes on and on and on. Great, you say. What's the problem with that. Well, there is no clear pecking order here. The WSF in principal speaks for the world of squash, but the PSA goes ahead and sets it own rules, scoring systems, ranking systems and the like totally independently.
Then there are more "squash brands": Trinity Squash, Harvard Squash, Yale Squash, US Pro Squash Tour, Squash Engine, NEXT Squash ...
And a completely other set of brands: Jonathon Power and "Power Squash Academy", the Khans, Peter Nicol, Nicol David, and so on.
Each of these Squash Brands is:
a) Competing for money and raising money
b) Competing for attention and the center stage, creating their own messaging, creating identities, flooding the media with information, creating their own version of the "truth" about squash.
c) Creating their own idea of how to communicate the notion of squash.
d) Building their own platforms and audiences (websites, twitters, facebooks, email lists, newsletters ... )
e) Some of them are even splitting their brands (PSA, PSA World Tour, PSA Squash TV, PSA Superseries ... )
OK. so amidst all that noise and conflicting messaging about squash, what are the most effective and widely recognized brands of squash today?
Here is my (VERY SUBJECTIVE OF COURSE) list of the most important squash brands in the year 2010:
TOP TWENTY SQUASH BRANDS, 2010
1. Trinity Squash [unprecented and sustained media coverage around their winning tradition]
2. Nicol David [unbelievable popularity and media attention in Southeast Asia]
3. Jonathon Power [to the enduring chagrin of the "establishment", captured the imagination of the squash world]
4. Jahangir Khan [worldwide fame and association with championship frame of mind, Pakistani hero]
5. PSA (Men's Professional Tour) [good job of creating visibility for their tour]
6. Egyptian Squash (and Shabana, Ashour and Darwish) [a whole society gets behind a generation of winners]
7. WISPA (Women's Professional Tour) [better job of creating tour visibility, but a harder challenge]
8. British Open (Yes it's still up there) [decades of tradition as the most important ww event]
9. The Khan Family [Legendary and unprecedented domination of a sport by a family]
10. Peter Nicol [The ultimate gentlemen champion]
11-13. Dunlop, Head and Prince [suppliers to the sport, but pitiful collective commitment to sport]
14. Jonah Barrington [still famous after all these years]
15. Tournament of Champions (NYC) [New York is the Media Capital of the world, as John Nimick and Tom Jones understand well]
16. Squash Superseries [A decade of brand collateral hasn't been quite destroyed yet]
17. Mark Talbott [A unique spirit and truly unique ability to communicate give him star power]
18. Harvard Squash [decades of association with winning in the US, like UCLA in basketball]
19. Squashbusters [great name and great concept has gotten worldwide attention for urban program]
20. ASB [ASB has impressively created a global squash court brand]
I'll stop there.
IMPOSSIBLE TASK FOR THE GOVERNING BODIES
Notice that, in my subjective listing, The WSF, England Squash and US Squash don't make the list. You could say that these organizations (and many others) haven't done a good enough job of inventing a clear image and conveying and selling it. There are other ways to look at it, though. Why should they? They are governing bodies. They should be promoting the SPORT, not their own organization. And the WSF and US Squash have a formidable task. They are contending with these top twenty brands (and many more), few of whom are working together or even communicating. Each of which has different goals, and permutes the "message of what squash is" to suit their own brand. Each of which only listens when it suits them.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT?
The good news is that the WSF has a brand new CEO, Andrew Shelley, who has a terrific track record in building and maximizing the WISPA brand, and who more importantly always focuses on the big goal.
Here are a few suggestions:
1) WSF and US Squash should invite some key stakeholders (in particular, see above, the top five brands at least) to an extended brainstorming.
2) Gain an understanding of the objectives and values of the key types of brands (Individuals, teams, companies, NGBs, Pro Organizations, media and so forth), and where is the common ground.
3) Develop a brand marketing plan. No consultants needed. Just the important stakeholders. Consultants perpetuate their own billability and rarely produce insight. Communicate. Ask for feedback. Don't finalize until the feedback comes in.
4) Figure out how to gain cooperation of a critical mass of the most important brands in helping to market the squash name and sport value proposition. This is very much like an industry consortium in business. If the leading thinkers buy in, the rest will have to follow. Very much like an industry consortium, everyone contributes effort and funding to this effort. So the message cannot be about just one player. It is about the broader community, and the selfish players should not get attention.
ONE MESSAGE, COMMUNICATION, INCLUSIVENESS, DECISIVENESS - THESE ARE THE KEYS.
STAY TUNED FOR INSTALLMENT TWO IN THIS SERIES ....
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