Dig Deep to Find What’s in a Name

April 24, 2013 by Mike Goff

Fourteen years.  For almost a decade and a half, college football fans and media have groused about how much better college football would be with a playoff, arguing that the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) did not do justice to the crowning of a national champion in the sport.  Never mind that the BCS’s directive was to pair the top ranked team with the second ranked team each season – a feat it accomplished 11 of the 14 years according to the Associated Press ranking. The system was flawed, or so the collective “they” said.

That’s why Premier Sports Management pitched a plan last summer, accepted by the BCS, to assist with the development of a branding and identity plan for the new playoff.  The task was to work with a committee of conference marketing directors to guide a process that would provide strategic discipline and rigor to the eventual positioning of the event, the naming system and name, and the visual identity.

That committee, led by Premier’s brand management expertise and counsel, sifted through extensive past fan research, secondary source material, and our own fan focus group findings.  Premier conducted an extensive audit of naming conventions across college and professional sports, and also highly visible entertainment property names.

Using this information as the guide, Premier crafted and gained approval from the committee on a new positioning statement that would serve as the foundation for all marketing and messaging of this soon-to-be-launched event.  Premier and the committee then considered the criteria for name selection as well as the mandates given by the conference commissioners.  The team considered names that were literal and descriptive, as well as names that were aspirational and/or emotional.  Acronym-based names were considered along with names that were truly out of the box.  Over time, dozens of names were considered, discussed, abandoned or reintroduced as finalists.

Ultimately, all involved determined that the name had to be simple, distinctive, easy to learn, descriptive and free of hyperbole.  It had to be flexible and compatible with any future format changes that might be introduced, even though none are immediately expected.  It needed to be simple to use in a logo and visual identity system, with uses ranging from a logo on a field to a website design.  And, finally, it had to fit with what we heard back from our fan research.

One thing was very clear—the word “playoff” is what made the new structure different than the old, and was the thing that had to be emphasized.

Premier is proud to have been a part of announcing the new College Football Playoff, and is proud of our role in guiding the leaders of the country’s most popular college sport through this branding process.  That process to get to the name involved research, education, auditing and a fair amount of healthy skepticism by those involved.  It was our role, we felt, to push, occasionally play devil’s advocate, and to ultimately recommend what our strategic process told us was the right solution. 

We can’t wait for the College Football Playoff.