Brand Building Starts at Top of the Organization

For all of the investments in brand marks, advertising, and other forms of communication, they are rendered ineffective if brand promises are not kept. That assertion seems reasonable, so any good marketing staff ought to be able to do its job to ensure that execution is consistent with strategy, right? No, the marketing staff is important, but it is not the key to creating a strong brand and bringing it to life everyday. The key resides in the executive suite.

An organization's leader sets the tone for what is important. He or she articulates organizational values and goals. Everyday actions like meeting regularly with customers versus remaining holed up in an office send clear messages about the leader's commitment to the organization. It also sets an example of how employees should do their part to carry out brand promises made to customers.

These thoughts come to mind as I read the Sports Illustrated list of the best and worst owners in U.S. professional sports. Specifically, I was drawn to the #5 ranking given to Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg. The franchise had been the butt of jokes for most of its existence. It had never made the playoffs since beginning play in 1998. The previous owner was viewed as unwilling to invest to improve the team. Tropicana Field, the team's stadium, was considered to be one of the worst in Major League Baseball.

Sternberg arrived on the scene in 2004 and addressed many of the problems plaguing the franchise. He listened to fans, he initiated improvements to Tropicana Field, and the team worked to makeover its image in the Tampa/St. Pete area. These efforts, which also included a rebranding of the team from Devil Rays to Rays in 2008, resulted in greater fan acceptance. Winning the American League championship in the franchise's first ever playoff appearance did not hurt, either. The value of the Rays franchise is estimated to be $320 million today, a giant leap from the $65 million Sternberg paid to buy the team just five years ago.

The best way to build a brand? A leader with vision and the willingness to serve customers, not just talking about it.

Link: SI.com - "SI's Best and Worst Owners"

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