The Art of Branding: Pearson Cunningham, Centerfold Agency

(Photo via Pearson Cunningham)

Over the years, branding and sports marketing have changed drastically. One brand agency, Centerfold, of Charlotte, North Carolina, is continuing to rewrite the script on what it means to familiarize and identify with a brand.

For company Principal and branding expert, Pearson Cunningham, remaining genuine to their brand and image is paramount to establishing fan connection and positivity.

At its core, a brand is others’ perception of an entity; something that has the power to sway business or hurt a company. Centerfold acts on that by looking into the heart of what they believe in.

“We keep brand at the core of every decision we make,” said Cunningham. “Whether it’s stadium concessions or a player’s skills camp, we always strive for brand consistency in even the smallest details across all channels.”

Cunningham, a professional of seven years and former design co-founder of Cosmic; an e-commerce startup connecting retailers and publishers, knows the drive a brand needs to succeed.

Through personal experience and nature of the industry, Cunningham, over the years, has learned relevance and vision tandem best for positive results.

“[You should] always be cognizant of the space your brand will occupy,” said Cunningham. “Ensure its verbal and visual identity resonate with your targeted audience in that space.”

One of the newly revolutionized ways to cultivate a brand is through social media. Whether a professional sports team or a snacking company, social media gives the brand a friendly face, often resulting in conversation.

He notes that the best social media accounts often engage with their followers and fans in unique ways — extending to their everyday lives.

“I always enjoy reading Twitter conversations between professional sports teams,” said Cunningham. “The personification of organizations and interaction they have with each other is a great example of how to deepen ties to your fanbase.”

None rings truer than in 2016, when several NFL teams of the cat family interacted on Twitter and produced thousands of engagements, and connected with fans alike.

The Panthers, Jaguars, Lions, and Bengals all collaborated in unique conversation provoking mass fan involvement and furthered their own brands.

The tweet thread represents the personification of professional social media accounts tying into the everyday likeness of fans and followers. Although simple and witty, it has the ability to drive conversation.

As an expert in branding and marketing campaigns alike, Cunningham knows the two should work together to further one another. Once the brand is established, it enables the direction in which the marketing campaign tells its story.

“When creating a campaign, an agency must keep in mind where a brand has been, and where it’s heading,” said Cunningham.

Marketing has the power to extend the audience, create conversation through advertising and influence possible consumers. Without the initial image of the brand, Cunningham knows the latter is not possible.

“A successful marketing campaign builds brand equity by furthering the story of that brand in a direction that is meaningful to its followers.”

In sports, physical representation of the brand still trumps digital marketing efforts via tangible connection. Cunningham knows the digital sphere of the marketing and branding efforts look through the window of the real world.

“Your digital brand supports your physical brand by bringing you closer to the physical product when it’s not top of mind,” said Cunningham. “But nothing in the digital space comes close to being at an event as a fan, and interacting with that brand in a raucous environment with 80,000 of your closest friends.”

Through collaborations with universities and sports teams, Cunningham and the rest of his Centerfold team continue to further the conversations and help establish a wide variety of personable brands.

Each campaign and success can be traced back to one thing: relationships.

“I think our comfort level of working together shines through in our work and relationships we build with our clients,” said Cunningham. “We [co-workers] have been friends for a long time, and that chemistry is extremely hard to fabricate.”

*Centerfold Agency is a Proud Partner of Front Office Sports

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.