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Volume 21 No. 1
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Plugged In: Tom O’Grady, president and CEO, Gameplan Creative

After working as creative director for the NBA during his 13 years at the league, Tom O’Grady returned to his native Chicago in 2003 and formed Gameplan Creative, a sports and entertainment brand, marketing and video production agency. Today, Gameplan’s clients include the Chicago Cubs, Chicago Fire and Major League Baseball. The company also helped design the Charlotte Bobcats’ expansion identity and more recently was the brand architect of the nascent Elite Football League of India.

— Compiled by John Lombardo


We live in the world of emotional branding. Sports is not an on-the-shelf product. People are intimately connected to the teams and the players, and fans are passionate about the tribal colors of the clubs. That is the beauty of working in sports. You can make a real-time connection to your audience through all of the new media available.

On the Bobcats’ name change:
If they have vetted their research properly, it suggests that the fans are more connected to the Hornets than the Bobcats, so it is a solid move. The history of the Bobcats has not been that rosy, so you are not deflating a brand with a lot of winning history nor value. To do it any later might be dangerous.

Any risks?: There is little downside, because there is just not enough tradition or brand value in the Bobcats. It is a reboot, and that is exceptionally rare. They are taking a branding mulligan. They are getting to hit another ball because they don’t have to reinvent themselves or educate the public on who the Hornets are.

Consistency vs. change: Once you set a course, you want to be consistent in that process and be your own brand police in making sure you guard it carefully. You see teams like the Boston Celtics and the New York Yankees that have never varied much. It is the anti-University of Oregon approach. That is over-stimulation for a brand design because it is never the same every week.

Branding trends in sports: On the professional level, there has been a complete shift to simple. Look at what the Brooklyn Nets have done. The NBA used to be the boldest and brashest in their color palettes and identities. Now they are the cleanest. It is the same thing in baseball. The Astros did something really simple, and you don’t see much experimentation. It’s the same thing in the NFL. On the flip side, it is completely different at the college ranks.

The industry’s growth areas: It’s in video production. There is such an acceptance of media on the Internet. The equipment has gotten much cheaper and more sophisticated that it gives you the ability to create your own productions. The demand for video content is exploding every day.