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The president and chief creative officer of SME is an expert in sports branding who helps teams, leagues and events discover and communicate their core values.

There was a time when a sports organization looking for a change would create a new logo and call it good. But those days are long gone. Today, it’s all about the brand and how it’s communicated, from logos and merchandise to social media and fan engagement. Since he founded SME in 1989, Ed O’Hara has been at the forefront of that messaging, working with a roster of clients that have benefited from his firm’s take on branding. Among the groups that have worked with SME are the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, the NCAA, MLB, the New York Yankees, the Pac-12, the ACC and events such as the Kentucky Derby and the America’s Cup. O’Hara will be speaking at TEAMS ’15 on his approach to branding, particularly for the next generation.

In this interview with SportsTravel’s Jason Gewirtz, O’Hara discusses how branding has changed, the college uniform shuffle and why you need to get to know Gen Z.

What’s the biggest change in your approach to sports branding today compared to when SME started?

When we were formed, it was “let’s do a logo and increase our merchandising business.” Then it became “let’s be smarter about it, let’s do research and understand our consumer and what their wants are, and let’s tailor our brand toward them while not abandoning our core values.” Now we have a complete democracy of branding. There is such transparency via social media that we need to be very open and honest and transparent about the brand, what it stands for, what good things it’s doing in the world. It ties back to a greater understanding of our audiences and the changing media consumption habits that they’ve gone through.

To read the rest of this Q&A in the digital edition of SportsTravel, please click here.