NCAA Tournament: Bracket by Brand


It is that time of year when sports lovers are treated to non-stop games for 12 hour stretches, and the dreams of hundreds of college athletes and fans come to courts across the country.

Equally as exciting for the rest of the population is the opportunity to fill out a bracket and prove their prowess in predictability.

Many offices hold bracket contests as team building exercises and bragging-right opportunities. But, we, at Innovations Branding House, do not.

Most of us are not really sports people. But there are a few in the office who live for the gauntlet run that is basketball in March.

With a little convincing, we eventually all joined in and made some blind selections based on whatever criteria we deemed fit:

-mascot names

-coin flips

-school colors

-whichever was easier to write

Basically, anything goes.

That led to this thought: How would your brand rank on a tournament bracket?

The Credentials

A lot of times, your potential customers are going to make their decision based on perception alone. They may choose, or not choose, your business after just visiting your website or scrolling through your reviews on Facebook.

While their decisions may not be well informed, that first impression really can be a deal breaker when they weigh their options.

So how do you begin to analyze a sports team by their brand? The first thing I would consider would be their identity and reputation. Does the team stand out? And why? A high academic rating would be a positive. Being known for a scandal would be a negative.

How do they look? Is their logo recognizable and synonymous with their identity? Do their colors complement their image? Universities are brands when you think about it. Their primary goal is to attract students (business) and put out the best possible product (education).

We applied this train of thought to the teams playing in the tournament, weighing heavily on brand equity as perceived by the (probably biased) members of the office.


How Does Your Brand Matchup?

A potential customer may apply the same type of analysis when they are looking for a product or service. It is important to ask yourself, “How do I stack up against my competition?”

Is your message clear and cohesive? Is your website functional and informative? Is your logo recognizable? Do your marketing efforts tie these things together?

These questions are important to consider because they will be the questions your potential customers will subconsciously ask themselves when they weigh you against your competition.

When attracting new customers, this will be all they have to go on to make their decision. And sometimes, that’s all it takes to make someone choose a 16 seed over a 1 seed.


Who Did We Choose?  Our Four Finalists:

The University of Kansas: The Jayhawks took the top spot in their corner of the bracket. Their iconic “Jayhawk” logo is easily recognizable and has been their mascot since the early 1900s. Their current logo has been in use since 1946, and there is absolutely no reason to change it.

Yale University: As far as collegiate reputations go, it’s hard to top Yale. The Ivy League school founded in 1701 is instinctively referred to as one of the top schools for academics. So, you could say they have a reputation. They also have their own typeface.

Michigan State University: Their green “Sparty” logo is simple, yet dynamic. The same can be said for their official tagline “Spartans Will,” which they say “communicates our value and purpose in a common language.” They also have an entire website dedicated to the MSU brand.

University of Kentucky: The Wildcats of the Bluegrass State have a rich and successful athletic history dating back to the Civil War.  And while “Kentucky Blue” isn’t an official color, it is the official blood type of their strong and loyal following, which can be seen via their many, many, many, fansites.


How far would your brand go?