Big Ten Network's 'Expert Opinion' examines team branding Feb. 28

February 18, 2011

University Park, Pa. -- How is the idea of a sports team's brand -- its distinct identity -- different from the brand of a Fortune 500 company or a consumer product … or is it? Three experts join host Graham Spanier, president of Penn State, to discuss the complexities of sports team branding on the next edition of "Expert Opinion with Graham Spanier."

The Monday, Feb. 28, edition of "Expert Opinion," which airs at noon Eastern time on the Big Ten Network, welcomes branding experts John Gerzema, James Cockerille and Victoria Vitarelli to the show. Gerzema is president of Brand Asset Consulting and chief insights officer for Young & Rubicam, an international marketing, advertising and brand identity company. Cockerille is strategy director for FutureBrand North America, whose clients include NFL programs and sponsors of the Olympics. Vitarelli serves as senior director of marketing for the New York Jets NFL football team.

The panel will look at various aspects of branding -- including how the brand cachet of a star athlete like Derek Jeter and a popular sports franchise like the New York Yankees can benefit each other -- as well as the history and tradition that make a team unique.

"Icons, in our business in marketing and branding, are all about signals and symbols that say you are different, you're better or you're special," explained Gerzema. "So you think about McDonald's golden arches or the Coca-Cola contour bottle or even on Intel you know that little sound you hear when you hear the 'bing' from Intel. Those are symbols and they're icons and similarly, from 'script Ohio' to Joe Paterno to the Rose Bowl, all these are symbols that really reinforce tradition, meaning and authenticity."

The guests offer their thoughts on topics like the challenges of brand identity -- including the specific rebranding challenge of moving a purchased team franchise from one city to another, and what aspects of a team can be carried over and what transitions are, in Cockerille's words, "too traumatic."

Careful analysis of target audiences is important to the business of brand identity and brand management, but sometimes, as Vitarelli notes about the Jets, while some of a team's identity seems very scientific, some of its differentiation can happen organically, even coming down to team owners' preferences.

The "Branding Sports Teams" edition of "Expert Opinion" debuts at noon Eastern time on Monday, Feb. 28, on the Big Ten Network. To watch a preview of the show, visit /video/160528/2013/02/09/video-no-title online.

Go to for more information about the show and to watch previously aired episodes.

  • Click on the graphic above to watch a the 'Expert Opinion' homepage and watch previously aired episodes.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated March 21, 2011