OPINION: Animals Make The Best Sporting Brands

OPINION: Animals Make The Best Sporting Brands
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine



As Tasmania’s AFL club prepares to unveil its name, colours and logo next month, sporting brand expert Mark Patterson of brand agency Canyon argues why the fight to be the Tasmanian Devils is an important one in this op-ed.

Forget the 49ers and the Chiefs, and closer to home, the Suns and Giants, the best sporting brands, are built on the symbolism and majesty of the animal kingdom. It’s this simple fact that makes Tasmania’s fight for the right to use the name “Tasmanian Devils” critical as the island state prepares to launch its first AFL team.

The club is rumoured to be locked in negotiations with Warner Bros to secure the naming rights before it unveils its name, colours and logo next month. The clock is ticking, and recent comments from ex-Tassie premier Ray Groom suggest it’s a battle they’ve been fighting since the 1990s.

It’s a battle that Tasmania needs to win for a host of cultural reasons and identity, but let’s unpack the really, really, really important issue here – having an AFL team Tasmania can be proud of, no matter their sporting prowess.

Because the best sporting brands use animals as mascots.

Chicago Bulls – could there be anything more iconic? Certainly not the Utah Jazz or Washington Wizards…

In Australia, some of our biggest sporting brands have long embraced the animal to rally fans and inspire players.

These clubs – the Brisbane Lions, Richmond Tigers, and Western Bulldogs among them – leverage the strength and inherent nobility of iconic animals to build team spirit and unity, to instil a sense of pride among fans and evoke emotions of determination – inspiring fans to support their team through thick and thin.

Animal brands fall into three broad categories in sport – those rich in symbolism that promotes strength and tenacity, promoting resilience among fans and players. Think teams like the Western Bulldogs, Hawthorn Hawks, North Melbourne Kangaroos.

The second are those that have an inherent nobility, instilling a sense of admiration, elevating the team’s image and creating an awe-inspiring emotional appeal. Here is where the Tassie Devils would fit alongside the Richmond Tigers and Brisbane Lions.

Finally there are those that create a sense of team spirit and unity, that epitomise a sense of pack mentality like the Brisbane Broncos.

Being a new team to the league, if they’re called the Tassie Devils they will have an immediate advantage with their bold brand, building a fan base quickly through a symbol that evokes both admiration and pride among fans and players. It’s a brand that would launch with an instant emotional resonance – something the Gold Coast Suns wouldn’t have experienced.

Brands that leverage animal iconography also benefit from the symbolic meaning animals carry across cultures, which allows teams to create a connection to fans who may not know or understand the sport yet but who identify with the symbolic qualities associated with the chosen animal.

What I’ll be interested to see – besides how this stoush with Warner Bros plays out – is how the Devil is expressed visually. Working on the rebrands for Western Bulldogs, Richmond Tigers and North Melbourne Kangaroos, we and the clubs invested a lot in selecting the right pose of each animal to signal qualities like determination, tenacity and pride.

So if Tasmania’s team becomes the Devils, how the devil is represented is just about as important as the battle to secure it.

C’mon Devils!




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