Brand for Ultimate

Dmytro Babych
Mar 7 · 15 min read

То же самое по-русски → здесь.

Who am I

Today — I am the president of Ukrainian flying disc federation, UFDF. This is my 4th term on this position.

For the last 3 years we have performed a huge step forward in our Federation development. We started from official sport registration and finished with the highest possible governmental status — “national”. In 2019 UFDF has become a part of Ukrainian Budget plans officially, with costs reserved for Flying disc promotion. And this is the first academic year, when some of the Ukrainian schools have started to study Ultimate in schools, with support from the Ministry of education of Ukraine.

I am not a marketer, have no sports education. For 11 years I’ve been an owner of design agency and been developing its brand. 2 years of being a captain of Kyiv ultimate club Nova. Worked with newcomers, did several sport presentations, took part in tournaments organization, participated in ~60 championships.

Everything written below — is my own conclusions and experience.

The article below is my vision on how I believe we should promote the Flying disc sport and Ultimate in particular.

The first thing we should define is the general aim we are going to achieve with promotion. My formulation is:

Sports promotion — is raise of involvement of athletes in a kind of sport.

Sportsman evolution

Each sportsman passes through several levels of her involvement in a kind of sport. They are:

  1. Awareness — to get information about the kind of sport from television, from the internet, from close friends, etc.
  2. Attention — to set eyes on the kind of sport by receiving a bright picture and finding out something interesting, which makes this kind of sport unique.
  3. Interest — to find out, that the kind of sport can satisfy some needs of the person.
  4. Newcomer — attended a training or a game, bought a disc, spoke to a person, who could tell and show something new about the sport.
  5. Player— playing on regular basis: on trainings or tournaments.
  6. Sportsman — training on regular basis, striving for high achievements.

The important thing to note, ignored by many. Desire to play precedes desire to train. This is why many of newcomers quit teams rather fast. They come to play, but instead they get training and boring exercises.

The interesting part of these levels is the fact, that a well-designed development system should be prepared from the last level. If there is no further step — sportsmen, who passed current level, will have no further aim to achieve. Aim — this is what everyone needs.

For example, no sense to advertise the sport, if you have no sport section, where every newcomer can go easily. No sense to train if you don’t mean to win a tournament. Etc.

The first three levels are a part of marketing, and this is what I am going to explain below.

Problem #1. Unawareness

98% of sport presentation attendees are really surprised to know, that Flying disc is a team sport, that teams have to offend and to defend their zones, and it is played on a large field 100-meters long.

Everyone knows frisbee. But:

No one knows Ultimate.

This is how our sport looks like for those who didn’t hear about it before. The worst case — people imagine some naked beach couples throwing frisbee near the sea. More aware people imagine the sport with a toilet lid. Team sport: throw the lid — then run!

Ultimate is a mysterious sport in Ukraine (and not only in Ukraine). And furthermore — a complex word. Ultimot. Altimeit. Frisball. This is why on presentations we usually name the sport with a simple “Frisbee”.

Opinion. Ultimate — is a sport for those, who are not good enough to play rugby.

Video by AUDL

In general the problem of awareness — is a technical problem. We surely can find some creative ways of promotion to save money or to use some viral communication channels. But anyways the task is just to spread the information.

I can’t say the task is very complex here in Ukraine. Approximately 10 reportages are broadcasted on Ukrainian TV channels annually.

The audience is rather large. Social networks simplify the task even more. Schools and universities are also very open to host presentations.

There is a good coverage. The problem is conversion.

Let’s imagine that you succeeded in putting your sport to television, to the internet, to billboards. But no one cares. No one pays attention to it.

Why so?

Problem #2. Information noise

The most important part is what information to spread. This is the higher level task. The quality of information defines the effectiveness of its broadcast.

Now it’s time to draw some important analogies.

Market

Sport (in general) — is a market. A kind of sport like Ultimate — is a commodity. Just the one out of many. There are many others on the market: soccer, hockey, basketball, etc.

Sportsmen and people who are involved into any kind of sport — are consumers.

Ultimate players “consume” this kind of sport and “pay” for it with their resources: time, money, emotions, health sometimes.

Bad news is that there are too many commodities on the market and their “vendors” all want to grab their consumer. “Sellers” decorate their “shop windows”, create advertisement. All of these creates an enormous information noise.

Add the fact, that most of the “commodities” on the sports market have acquired their auditorium already and are “sold” pretty well. They’ve got money to create attractive packaging, hire promoters and produce beautiful visuals.

We have nothing from the list.

To grab one’s attention in such an aggressive environment we should not just have communication channels, but we should have some distinctive features.

No one cares about our kind of sport, until it becomes interesting.

What is the difference of Ultimate?

There are some cliche used by many trainers to introduce Ultimate at sport presentations. If take a closer look — they are not really exclusive for Ultimate.

  • Spirit of the game.
    This is not an Ultimate’s invention. Spirit of the game, in example, is a part of Rugby too.
  • No referees.
    There are no referees at World Ultimate Championships, that’s really worth of interest. But let’s take any “street” kind of sport. Have you ever seen referees in streetball? The game played by tens of millions of people worldwide.
  • No contact.
    Yes, we officially have such a rule. Ultimate players should avoid body contact and can’t grab the disc from handler. But let’s face the truth: there is a contact in Ultimate. From the other hand there is really no contact in some other kind of sports like volleyball.
  • Frisbee is a unique sports equipment.
    Yes, but the same can be said about almost any other equipment. Hockey puck, bowling skittle, paddle, you name them. It depends on what you compare it to.

Surely, getting all of these together creates a unique combination of the game we all love. But I believe you became an ultimate player not because of “no referees” or “no contact” rules, didn’t you?

What to do?

Let’s get back to the market.

Imagine, that Ultimate — is a washing powder. Remember, how you choose one in supermarket? Probably, you don’t actually know, which one is better: Tide, Ariel, Persil or any other. Normally you just believe. They are all white, can be used for machine wash and smell like freshness. But you are familiar with powder Tide and know nothing about, for example, Losk. That’s why you see Tide and “all other washing powders”.

Knowledge — is logical, belief — is emotional.

This is how brand works, and actually what brand is for: it emphasizes the one from many, grabs our attention.

Brand creates a figure, which has emotional connection with consumer.

Brand has obvious differences and helps to dim surroundings. It uniquely identifies commodity and makes people addictive.

This is how our brain works: emotions — first of all, then — logic and analysis.

That’s why a really good sports brand should appeal for proper emotions first of all.

Ultimate requires powerful brand.

What is a sports brand?

Brand ≠ Logo.

Sports brand — is an emotional connection created between a kind of sport and a man.

We all want to be like Michael Jordan, wear FC Barcelona sportswear and Lacoste polo. Why so?

What do you imagine when thinking of soccer?

Stadium, crowd, beer, fans, pubs, fights, FC Barcelona.

Tennis?

Wimbledon, elite sport, white polos, Lacoste, Stakhovsky :)

Basketball?

NBA, black guys, hip-hop, Michael Jordan.

These kind of sports have occupied their niche already. They have their own powerful brands. Their monetary turnovers — billions of dollars, and army of fans — hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

How did they do that?

The same works here as for Marlboro did long time ago: a beautiful world everyone wants to live in.

We see beautiful bodies of successful athletes who challenge human possibilities, watch the atmosphere of feelings, happiness of victories, listen to inspiring music. We want to be a part of all of these.

This very figure of sport, its emotional part, is the reason for one to lift his ass off the couch and go outside. The kind of sport, which first occupies the heart of an athlete — wins.

Basketball, soccer and many other kinds of sport have found their place in the hearts of people. That’s why they are so popular.

Competition

Let’s throw off sheep skin and face the truth: we came to the “market” where most of people have chosen their occupation already. This is why we have to “fight” for our “consumers”.

Welcome to the real life! This is what “competition” stands for.

When we say, that our kind of sport is free of body contact, and it is its cool feature — we mean that presence of body contact is a defect. When we say, that disc is an interesting sports equipment, we mean that it is better than ball.

We say that our sport is different, that it is somehow better. Than others. For example:

  • More interesting than athletics
  • More safe than rugby
  • More affordable than hockey
  • More athletic than basketball
  • Smarter than soccer

To get our auditorium we challenge other kinds of sport. But can we really counter such a big “monsters”?

Yes we can. We just need to find people, who really need our kind of sport and speak proper words to them.

Problem #3. Arousing desire

Normally people promoting a kind of sport are concentrated on “their own aim”. “Promotion” is usually meant to have as many people playing Ultimate as possible. Having our own aim in front (acquiring many players) we forget about ambitions of those, we’re speaking the word of our sport to. Obviously, their interests have nothing in common with global Ultimate domination. Their demands and wills — totally different.

The truth about game sports is:

People don’t care what to play!

Even if you think different :)

They don’t actually care much which sports equipment to choose, what rules, is there body contact present or not. At presentations they usually ask totally different questions:

  1. How much can one earn on it?
  2. Is it safe for kids?
  3. Is sports equipment expensive?

Again:

People don’t care what to play!

What do they care?

Meeting the needs

Let’s get back to the market.

Imagine that Ultimate became a commodity: it has design, packaging and even consumer is somehow interested. But nobody buys it.

If you want somebody to buy your commodity — it has to become a product.

Product — is a commodity, that satisfies the desire or needs of a consumer.

There are many products at market, but people buy only the ones, which satisfy their particular needs and help to achieve their goals.

Let me tell, why I started to play Ultimate. Not because of the flying disc itself or because of the Spirit of the Game.

I had two attempts.

The first time I‘ve been given a disc and a partner to throw the disc with. It was my first experience and the last training. Throwing the disc — is not that interesting.

My second attempt was in winter: we almost didn’t throw discs, but instead — ran much and performed tough exercises. I felt dizzy and like crap. I’ve got the load I wanted and it was my reason to stay. I needed physical activity to get rid of my belly.

It could be any other kind of sport. But I had no other options to train for that moment. It was my friend who invited me, and his preference was Ultimate.

Ultimate became a solution for me to satisfy my needs: physical activity, team of like-minded people, coach, who does not allow to relax. This is why I “bought” this “product”.

To become a champion, sign an expensive contract, get rid of some extra weight or find a good reason to meet with friends — all of this is just human needs. Sport — is a way to achieve personal goals and to solve personal problems. To make a “product” out of Ultimate, we should stop thinking of our aim and speak about rules, but instead we should propose people a solution of their problems.

People care only WHAT the new kind of sport can bring, and not HOW it looks like.

To find a response in people’s hearts, a kind of sport should understand human problems and speak the same language to them.

When a sports brand suddenly starts to “speak” the words, which are very close to a person’s values, views, needs — it is perceived as being humane and dear. And the thing it speaks that way, is what marketing calls an insight.

Photo by DM Photography

Imagine soccer. Hundreds of millions of players all over the world, billions in budget. Our ~10 millions of players worldwide look sorry in comparison. One might say: what can we suggest to people to arouse their interest?

But huge sports demand turned out to be a disadvantage too. Soccer players spend years in their schools and third-rate leagues, “warm” bench for the season. All just because of dream of a “big sport”: to play in national team or to sign a contract.

There are players in Ukrainian Ultimate who spent years in soccer but chose the new kind of sport, because it is much more opportunities here. Unsatisfied ambitions caused by exaggerated competition, became a reason to come to a new, not so popular kind of sport.

This is the next insight:

Ultimate brings REAL OPPORTUNITIES to sportsmen for their self-fulfillment.

To reveal our insights we should find points of contact between Ultimate and our audience, determine what we have in common. We have to understand, to whom we speak. Marketing calls this “the target audience”.

Ukraine branding by Banda

How we do it in Ukraine

Our audience

Let’s define the audience we currently contact with in Ukraine. Everything matters: gender, age, social status, experience, context, etc.

These are the main “groups” of people I have selected by myself:

  1. Kids under 13, up to 7th school grade inclusive.
    They don’t know, what to be. They are supported by their parents. They have childhood. They just need an active and interesting leisure.
  2. Schoolkids above 13, 8th school grade and older.
    They have their own preferences, they have their awkward age. Their idols and hobbies start to appear. They want to become a “Messi” or someone else. They don’t really make decisions, but they strive to influence them. They look for interesting occupation to reach their dreams.
  3. Students.
    They make their vital choices already, think of the future. Many of them live independently. Most of them don’t earn enough money, but they have plenty of time and energy. They are adult enough to compete with grown-ups and fight for their ambitions. They are romantic and have big expectations from their life. They want self-fulfillment. They need a kind of sport to bring their ambitions to life.
  4. Young people 22–28 years old.
    They are rather young, still ambitious. Earn money, independent. They have to fend for themselves, prioritize their occupations to build their future.
  5. Above 29 years.
    Mainly they are formed already as personalities. They came to conclusion, that healthy way of life is their choice: important and desirable. They have certain financial stability. They have time for leisure and understand that it should be of high quality.
  6. Parents.
    They love their children. They want their kids to have interesting, healthy and safe leisure. Preferably — free of charge. Preferably — easy and acceptable for them as parents.
  7. Physical education teachers.
    They are not rich. Many of them are not enough motivated and supported to do their jobs on the highest level. They don’t want much responsibility. They are waiting on their lives to be improved. Many of them are rather conservative. BUT. There are some teachers who strive to make their classes interesting to help develop kids through having happy and healthy sports education in school.
  8. Schools, universities and their principals.
    They care about prestige of their institutions. They believe their image helps to increase demand and thus — income. They want to look (and to be?) like being progressive and innovative.

We have to tell them, how the new kind of sport can help to achieve their goals. This is why we should understand the way Ultimate can satisfy the needs of these people.

Audience is very patchy, but they all have something in common. They all are humans, and human — is a social creature. This is why the short-term aim of sports development in Ukraine for UFDF is:

to arouse a desire in people to become a part of our community, enjoy the game and communication — not just to improve their physical conditions.

Emotions in Ultimate

“My” Ultimate — is a spectacular kind of sport with a big heart.

For example, imagine spectacular basketball:

And add Nike Running philosophy to it:

Somewhere at intersection of these, there is a part of emotional core of our sport. But Ultimate — is even bigger!

Ultimate — is Team.

It is a certain philosophy and atmosphere one can feel only by passing through trainings or by participating in a cool tournament

Unity. Mutual support. Dew on the lawn. Sand by the sea. Simplicity. Equality. Openness.

This is what Ultimate stands for.

Team sport is more difficult, than personal disciplines. There is always somebody “guilty” of defeat, somebody required to be motivated, somebody to look for a common language with. When you are alone — things are easier.

But more difficult too. Because this somebody — can turn out to be yourself.

Emotions you get even with a smallest victory gained together with your Team — much more powerful, than individual victories give.

Photo by Dmytro Babych

Being a part of our kind of sport gives a feeling of unity with a community of like-minded people. Starting from your own team, ending with a multi-million community of sportsmen, who are “not the same” as others. And this very feeling — is the distinguishing feature of our kind of sport.

What’s next?

I am working on UFDF to become a personification of values, which our kind of sport brings. I want the name “UFDF” to bring to life stable associations, as (i.e.)NBA does, but our own, Ultimate’s.

In 2017 we created a new logo for the Federation.

Logo by BBDO Ukraine

I want this logo to become a symbol and the Federation to become that very brand, that will live in hearts of sportsmen and motivate them to rise from the couch and go to the training.

Because friends are there.

Thanks to Yaroslav Serdyuk from Banda Agency for his inspiring articles “Lift for Brand” and “How to create an exciting brand”.