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Fans loved their clubs but not the Premier League. And non-fans loved the Premier League even less. The solution was a radical new strategy to transform every aspect of the brand, and a bold new identity to bring fresh purpose to the way the Premier League engaged fans, its partners and the wider public.

The Premier League is known the world over for excitement and competitiveness but away from the football many also regard it as money-driven, distant from the fans, and self-serving. The reality was not so black and white. Unknown to most, the Premier League works to benefit thousands of young people every year, providing access to elite coaching, investing in the best playing facilities and creating inspiration inside and outside the school classroom.

To transform perceptions, the new Premier League brand had to connect on-the-pitch excellence and excitement with the ambition and opportunity inspired off it. It also had to be executed in a way that could engage and appeal to both fans and non-fans alike.

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Achieving change is never easy but making it happen when the interests of clubs, broadcasters and partner brands are paramount only heightens the challenge. Robust market insight was essential. Conclusions and recommendations had to be bulletproof.

All the Premier League’s audiences and stakeholders were engaged. Extensive research was conducted to garner the opinions of fans. At multiple workshops, staff, partners and opinion formers provided insights from every perspective.

All of which contributed to the new strategic brand direction, clearly articulated purpose and set of values, which together act as the framework upon which all decisions are made. For the first time in 25 years the Premier League has a single brand to represent everything it wants to stand for on and off the pitch. And critically it represents the opinions of all stakeholders, including fans.

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Visual identity – On behalf of the Premier League we recruited the right creative agencies to bring the brand strategy to life appropriately and powerfully – creating a unifying, digital-first and purpose-driven brand identity. Working closely with Premier League’s in-house teams, corporate partners, and agencies we ensured that the new brand identity was fully developed, tested and launched in time for the start of the 2016/17 season.

Partnerships – Moving from title sponsor to a clean-brand provided the opportunity to review its commercial and non-commercial partnership strategies. The new values and purpose gave this activity direction and a framework to identify new partners that could connect the brand in positive ways to fans and non-fans alike – including families and mums. Central was the introduction of Premier League Primary Stars, an ambitious new community programme that used the appeal and resources of the clubs to help primary schools across the UK engage children to improve their literacy, numeracy and physical skills.

Communication – To change perceptions we had to increase awareness of the good work the Premier League does away from the pitch. Two strategies were deployed. A sub-brand hierarch to provide the necessary emphasis to each programme. And a move to human stories to enrich people’s understanding of the way football inspires and changes lives. The new tone of voice, underpinned by the values, transformed writing and communication styles.

Activation – Fan engagement was given a similar overhaul. International tournaments and fan parks were injected with colour and visual excitement. Social, online and broadcast channels were re-branded. Music guidelines were developed to help manage music selection, and a new strategy to connect fans with their favourite Premier League music was introduced through Spotify. And most importantly, domestic fans benefited from a new club commitment to ensure that all away ticket prices were capped.

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Brand value – Accountancy firms EY and Deloitte, and brand valuation business Brand Finance have all calculated the current brand value at $10.2bn, an increase of 40% since the rebrand at the start of 2016/17 season.

Income – The rebrand was never just about the money by while domestic broadcast revenues have slowed (remaining around £5bn), since the rebrand the appeal of the Premier League has seen the international broadcast revenues increase, and they are likely to grow from the current £2.3bn to £3.2bn by the start of the 2019 season.

Partner recruitment – Revenues from commercial partners increased, and the changing profile of partners saw family favourites like Cadbury, Coca Cola and Amazon replace more traditional sponsors, connecting the brand to a new generation of fans.

Favourability – According to independent research, the Premier League’s reputation has steadily improved with fans and non-fans. The brand is now regarded as ‘icon of British culture’, projecting the UK as ‘modern’ and ‘successful’. The majority of respondents think it ‘breakdown barriers with strangers’ and ‘helps connect people’. The new brand is consistently referred to as ‘modern’, ‘vibrant’ and ‘youthful’ and receives a positive response from the majority of fans and partners.

Awareness – Prompted awareness of the brand around the world is at an all time high. Broadcast coverage is uptown 188 countries, with a weekly global broadcast audience of 1bn viewers. In the UK, over 15,000 schools joined Primary Stars and Super Movers (JV with BBC Education) by mid 2018, surpassing their original target of 10,000 schools by end of 2019.

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We are incredibly proud of our work with the Premier League and the strength of our relationship. Now in our fourth year, we continue to be excited by the brand and the potential of what’s still to come!

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