Branding is one of those hot topic concept words with a lot of cache in the paintball universe right now that everybody tosses into the general conversation eventually but I'm not seeing many, if any, signs that anybody has much of a clue. Sure there's lots of logos emblazoned on damn near everything and some of the industry seems to be stumbling around in the right general vicinity but real brands; durable & firmly impressed on the paintball public seem to have been achieved almost by accident where they exist at all. But while the broader concept is an interesting one that's not what I'm interested in today.
My interest in branding revolves around paintball as sport and more specifically the pro teams that represent our sport. Efforts at branding have occurred but much like the rest of the paintball universe nobody is hitting the bullseye and many aren't even shooting at the correct target. The team closest to the mark is Vicious. They have a clear, simple, unchanging identity and the bolder and more instantly recognizable it is the better. Other teams have standard colors but they typically aren't unique or particularly distinct. Most have some sort of team logo or design but again these mostly come into play only upon closer scrutiny--and most teams have a base design that matches their sponsors' current product offering. Which is okay, particularly if the sponsors principle goal is to sell more jerseys or pants, but it isn't doing the job for the teams. And until more teams take their "brand" seriously they will continue doing themselves a disservice.
The trend in paintball jersey design has been to create unique, complex, even artful designs that satisfy the customer, the players, and seem to provide a unique identity to the wearer--but they really don't. At least not to the average outside observer or spectator. And when those designs are changed year after year, logos notwithstanding, the teams are not creating an identity or a brand. (But unless you're a pro team or aspire to be one it probably doesn't matter.)
If--and it remains a substantial if--competitive paintball is going to rise to the level of recognized sport one of the things that will facilitate the process is a readily identifiable product. There are, at present, two tracks being pursued aimed at legitimizing our sport. The Millennium Model is focused on the institutions and organizations of sports federations--if you build it they will recognize it--while the PSP is focused on producing a viable product to sell. In the PSP Model there is immediate value in rethinking the branding of pro teams and in the longer course it will also better serve the interests of competitive paintball to simply look more like a sport.
Think for a minute about mainstream sports and their uniforms. Bold, simple, consistent, unchanging unique color schemes that share normative characteristics across a league or sport. In our culture you almost don't need to know anything at all about football to know when you see a kid wearing a black & silver jersey that it is A) a football jersey and B) an Oakland Raiders jersey. That my friends is a brand.
This year the PSP has changed jersey marking requirements. It's mostly a matter of larger numbers and hopper numbers. The purpose is to aid in the collection of data for statistics. It's time to expand that vision and look at the Big Picture. It's time to think about the brand. And it's past time for teams, pro teams in particular, to recognize the value and potential in creating a more universal brand than a sponsor's latest jersey design insert logo here. And just so the industry isn't left out include them in the process of creating the league brand with the result that partnership creates a new tier of products only the sponsor companies are authorized to make and retail.
Time to stop talking about branding and do something about it.