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Volume 21 No. 6
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USSA seeks unity in rebranding

The U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association is rebranding to unify the diverse array of sports it oversees and present a single identity to sponsors, fans and donors.

The organization will now identify itself as simply U.S. Ski & Snowboard, and has introduced a single enterprise logo and three nearly identical team marks for skiing, snowboarding and freestyle skiing. The new logo emphasizes mountains and the American flag colors, two factors all the sports have in common. Previously, the organization has used four logos that have almost nothing in common stylistically.

The new brand reflects more than two years of work, which began in 2015 when CEO Tiger Shaw and Chairman Dexter Paine began soliciting help. One of Shaw’s first calls was to Jeanne Jackson, senior strategic adviser at Nike and a USSA board member.

“I think there were quite a few of us who were struggling with the way the ski team and the snowboarding team presented themselves to the world from a brand perspective,” Jackson said. “I think there were many of us who thought it could be stronger, and that we were fragmenting the organization, not just fragmenting in terms of how we thought about it, but how we went to market.”

Within winter sports, USSA is a giant. The various disciplines it oversees generated half of all medals awarded at the 2014 Sochi Games, and along with U.S. Figure Skating, it draws the majority of NGB-level corporate backing in the winter cycle. But officials feared they were punching below their weight commercially by presenting the alpine, snowboard, freestyle skiing and nordic teams as distinct entities. “Because of our fractured branding previously, it made it less valuable,” Shaw said.

Most of the body’s key backers acquire rights to all the teams, but some apparel and endemic providers specialize.

The brand consolidation treads on historically sensitive political grounds. Bad feelings linger from the bureaucratic disputes relating to snowboarding’s original inclusion in the Olympics in 1998, and the cultures of snowboarding, freestyle skiing and the more classic disciplines sometimes clash.

Shaw said feedback found sport partisans were OK with a more unified identity, as long as it was crafted from scratch with equal input.

“The concept was fine with them, they just didn’t want to be grouped with something that was aged, or traditional or narrow to one sport,” Shaw said.

Along with Jackson, USSA had advice from U.S. Olympic Committee CMO Lisa Baird, who has led the USOC’s push toward a single “Team USA” brand across all its events and properties.

“If you can really bring your core purpose down to a few marks, to me it’s a better way to do branding,” Baird said. “Consistency is the mechanism that allows you to cut through and develop meaning and purpose over time.”

Several creative agencies assisted: Harrigan Design Group in Boston, i.d.e.a. of San Diego, Monigle of Denver, West of San Francisco, and the marketing/creative departments of Putnam Investments, a USSA sponsor.

The rebranding is launching just ahead of the USSA partner summit set for Wednesday through Friday.