The beautiful brand

20 Jun 20164 minutes read

How sport sponsorship is forcing greater brand cognition

Anyone who knows me will be shocked to discover that I have dipped into UEFA Euro 2016. To be honest, I haven't actually watched a game, but I spotted Wales' manager, Chris Coleman, on the news talking about... well, I'm not sure what he was talking about, but it was what was behind him that caught my interest.

Behind the manager stands the brand board, burning impressions of the main sponsors' logos into the retinas of devoted viewers. Just in case you were in two minds which airline is best to nip over to Turkey, or which fizzy beverage would quench your thirst, the brand board subliminally reminds you where your loyalties should lie.

Sponsoring a world sports event doesn't come cheap, so I was interested to see that Carlsberg had decided to replace their main brand logo with 'Probably', styled in the same manner.

They're not the only major brand that has forgone the prime positioning of their name in favour of more campaign-led messages. Buy a Mars Bar today and you're more likely see #Believe emblazoned in red across the midnight packaging; pick up a bottle of Coca-Cola and you have the choice of names to select.

Admittedly, Carlberg's no-logo approach was in response to sports sponsorship regulations, and led to their to their creative solution in a similar vein as tobacco companies did with their Formula 1 advertising.

However, I thought it was also a good reminder of how people recognise brands and how increasing the effort people need to make is not necessarily a bad thing.

Research into how individuals recognise and interpret sensory stimuli show that our brains see shapes first, colours second and content last.

When you read, you firstly need to be able to identify the shapes of the letters. You then attribute meaning to the words that are formed. So our brains primarily process distinctive shapes, meaning they leave a greater imprint on our memory.

A quick note about colour, is that in reality words are themselves shapes, and so are processed before colour. However, their meaning lags behind the emotional reaction that colour provokes. Research has shown that we make up their minds within 90 seconds of interacting with a product, and between 62‐90 percent of the assessment can be based on colour alone.

So what happens when you throw a cuckoo into the brand nest, by replacing one of the 'Shape–Colour–Content' triad with something unexpected? One of the most famous effects in psychology can give us insight into this question, the Stroop Effect.

Read the colours, not the words

Research into the the Stroop effect showed people need to spend longer cognitively processing words that were written in an opposing colour. Also, further experiments have shown that increased cognition is a good thing if you want people to remember. Even setting your font to be harder to read can positively impact people's memory.

Without scrolling back up, what sports clothing brand is on the board behind Chris Coleman? It's likely you can't remember (although you may have made an intelligent guess). You processed this information easily when you first looked but that doesn't mean you remembered it, only minutes later.

I'm not suggesting that you start messing around with your brands in this way. The most well known brands have the luxury of high awareness and prolific marketing to be able to use this trick to their advantage. However, when creating brands it's a good process to remember. Will your brand marque or logo be strong enough to resonate with customers through its shape, colour and content?