The ChallengeReinventing a 30+ Year-Old Brand
The National Lacrosse League (NLL) is the largest men’s professional indoor lacrosse league in North America. In early 2016, the NLL came to Brownstein Group (BG) with a challenge – rebrand its image and help grow the niche sport of lacrosse to a mainstream audience. Recently-appointed NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz, who had been instrumental in the evolution of Major League Soccer, had an ambitious five-year plan, including: relocating the League’s corporate headquarters to the Philadelphia area, hiring new front-office senior leadership, establishing dozens of strategic partnerships, and engaging with BG to design/execute a new logo, website and public relations campaign. To do this would require the full effort of the agency, an integrated team of strategists, creatives, account/project managers, web designers and public relations professionals all aligned and focused on the same goals.
Charting a PathAligning Teams, Fans and Leadership
Through a lengthy discovery process, countless interviews, robust surveys and in-depth focus groups, the BG strategy team was able to uncover the key challenges that were holding the brand back, as well as the key findings that make the brand great. Through these findings – which consistently came back to the themes of authenticity, world class entertainment for all, and non-stop sensory overload – the brand platform “The Uncompromised Sport” was born.
Changing the NarrativeEducating, Exciting and Engaging a New Generation of Fans
Our PR objectives were clear – take a brand that had been around for more than thirty years, fundamentally change its industry narrative and build a communications framework for a major professional sports league of nine (9) teams in diverse markets across the United States and Canada, while setting the groundwork for future expansion. We began by writing what we called a “Team Toolkit,” which outlined all corporate messaging, created social media guidelines and formed clear, cohesive media outreach plans for the year ahead. And it would be a busy year, inking deals with more than 15 different partners, including: Sportsrocket, Salesforce, Team 22, UHWK, Warrior/New Balance, and Xumo, among many others. We also started planning for arguably our biggest announcement of the season – a digital streaming partnership that would forever change the way people watch the sport of lacrosse. In our first year alone, BG PR secured more than 180 media placements in top national, regional and industry publications, wrote 20+ press releases, submitted for several awards/ speaking opportunities and exponentially increased brand awareness of the NLL, its teams and leadership.
a New ImageDesigning a Logo Representative of the Past and the Future
Work on the new NLL logo began with an exhaustive audit, including research and examination into the evolution of the sport and the larger landscape of logos/ brands to ensure that the NLL mark would be truly distinctive. To unveil the new logo, BG created a hype video that would build excitement among the fans:
Each line, color and symbol in the new logo conveys unique elements of the League, and the resulting design (revealed at a special event held at Mohegan Sun Casino) received favorable feedback from top branding websites, as well as Sports Illustrated and the Sports Business Journal.
Closing Big DealsIdentifying, Securing and Announcing Key Partnerships
In mid-March 2017, the NLL announced a two-year live streaming partnership with Twitter. As the NLL’s exclusive live streaming partner, Twitter will distribute a free live broadcast of an NLL Game of the Week, as well as playoff and Champion’s Cup games and league-wide highlights, on its platform for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
This deal, developed for months in secret between the NLL, Twitter and BG PR, marked an historic broadcast relationship that will not only elevate the fan experience by making the game more accessible to audiences, but also enable simultaneous real-time conversations and connections with other fans on the same platform, increasing the accessibility of the League to fans and expanding its digital presence across North America.
In conjunction with the New York and San Francisco office of Twitter, the BG PR team led media relations efforts to announce the partnership, resulting in huge exposure for the deal, including coverage in such outlets as: Variety, Sports Business Journal, CNET, AdWeek, The Street, TechCrunch, Fast Company, MSN, San Francisco Chronicle, Engadget, CNBC, Yahoo! Sports and ESPN.
Creating the FutureBuilding a Fan-First Website
The culmination of our first season with the NLL came in May 2017 when we launched its new website – a totally redesigned look and feel for the brand, featuring a video-based layout reflective of the digital future of the League. Loaded with player stats, team information/schedules, and real-time game updates, the new NLL website is an immersive experience with dynamic imagery and video. After partnering with Sportsrocket to host the League’s video content, the Digital team at BG went to work carefully crafting the functionality of the new website, including a “Box Lax 101” section that outlined the rules/regulations of the sport for newcomers, while our Creative team designed a bold, gritty look to capture the intensity of the players. The resulting website is a standout among other professional sports leagues, and sets the tone for many seasons to come.