We’ve all heard the expression, coined by the late great “Bill" Shakespeare:
“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet;"
But would you really be as quick to inhale the pleasant scent of a Goosefoot Violet?
While the real world examples may not be as starkly ridiculous as that, in branding the right name acts as the foundation for all future efforts and can either aid or hinder. The motorsports ecosystem is rife with branding pitfalls: the pressure to become just another acronym, the need to feature sponsor logos above all else, and a split, opinionated and vocal fan base make the challenge all the more real. From CHAMPCAR to PSCR – or “chump car" and “p*sser" as they were known colloquially – the possibility of becoming another wreck on the side of the track was high.
SME had all this and more in mind when we were given the exciting opportunity to work on the creation of the newest brand in motorsports. Borne from the merger of the two powerhouse competitors in the North American sports car circuit – GRAND-AM Road Racing and the American Le Mans Series – the expectations for this new, merged series were high and the pressure was on.
SME, along with our partners at ALMS and GRAND-AM, engaged in an extensive research phase: speaking with key stakeholders internally, with sponsors, OEMs, team owners, drivers and fans. While key brand attributes and business decisions where being made from the results of the research, a fan competition, “Name the Future," was created so that the we could listen to our audience and learn more about their thoughts on things to come. “Name the Future" received over 7,500 entries over the 30 days that it was open for submissions. We’d like to highlight a few for discussion and give you a peek into our process:
Grand American Le Mans Series:
The most prevalent naming submission is (as you might expect) a simple combination of the two original series names. It maintains the equity and history of the original series and would be a safe and easy option: but it also carries with it the good and the bad.. Starting fresh with a clean slate was a crucial directive in decision-making, and helped us build something new rather than revisiting the original brands’ positive and negative associations at top of mind among stakeholders.
(North) American Sports Car Racing AND United States Sport Car Racing
As the premier sports car racing entities in the US it hardly comes as a surprise that “American," “United States" and other variations on this theme were popular among the submissions. The use of “American" in the name was a hotly debated subject, championed on both sides as being the proud legacy of the sport vs. a limitation for our respected OEMs, teams and drivers from outside the US. Remaining open to all was a key objective.
Endurance Road Racing Championship
Other common terminology such as “Road Racing," “Sports Car" and “Endurance" were prominent throughout the competition and debated at length during the research phase. Careful consideration on the inclusion of each was necessary – what did they really mean? What did they tell the consumer about this exciting new sport? With the goal in mind of remaining self-evident, all of these terms could prove useful in a final name, but only so many can make the final cut.
A brand long associated with the best in sports car racing, IMSA had to be considered. Could it play a role in the name? The attachment of IMSA to the long and varied history of sports car racing could add authenticity to the brand, but would a 40+ year old brand do in speaking of a new era to new and younger fans? We felt IMSA needed a different place to play a part in the new series and wanted to give it a role without tying a fresh new sport to the past.
United SportsCar Racing
Not surprisingly, iterations of “United" appeared frequently in conversation with stakeholders and in fan submissions. “United" speaks directly to the challenge: the merging of two competitive brands into a new unified brand and adds relevance and authenticity to the story of the brand’s evolution. Under the name of “United," the class structure and future goals have a home and a common objective of establishing a unifying brand to champion and promote sports car racing for years to come.
Now that the brand has been thrust into the spotlight, we are all more confident than ever about its limitless future. The 2014 season will give the public and the partners their first real taste of what this new chapter in American sports car racing has in store.
We wish the best of luck in 2014 to United SportsCar Racing, the talented and thoughtful people behind the brand and most of all to the fantastic fans that contributed to the name the future campaign. Especially to our contest winner, Louis Satterlee, the first to arrive at the name that took the rest of us months to agree on. What a pleasure and honor to help this promising brand come to life. SMEBranding.com