Cavs vs Warriors, Who Branded Better?

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Against all odds and led by Northeast Ohio’s hometown hero, the Cleveland Cavaliers went to the West Coast and made history by securing the city’s first professional sports championship in over half a century. Now that the Finals are over and the champion has been crowned, we’re going to take a closer look at who generated the most hype off the court, through ads, hashtags and the marketing onslaught that comes with postseason basketball.

The marketing matchup between the Cavs and the Warriors may not have gotten quite as heated as the budding rivalry between LeBron James and his Golden State counterpart Steph Curry, but with two passionate fan bases to appeal to and a lot of money to be made, all content produced had to be top notch, gorgeously designed, and very shareable.

Cleveland rallied its fans behind the tagline “All in 216”, displayed handsomely if not somewhat plainly with arched type in the team’s familiar wine and gold. The cleverest part of the piece is how the “2” is downsized in relation to the “16” next to it. This is meant to not only reference Cleveland’s area code (216), but also the year (2016) and the number of games a team must win in the postseason to become champions (16, as in the road “2” 16).

The mantra, along with #ALLinCLE was used prominently across social media by the Cavaliers’ official accounts as well as fans, and as of this writing the hashtag is still trending. For fans of the Cavaliers (or Cleveland sports in general) who have suffered years of disappointment and heartache, this expression fits. The odds were stacked against the Cavs, almost nobody outside of the state of Ohio thought they had a shot at the title, combined with past failures meant that it was them against the world, and they needed the fans to join in, all of them, to do their part and cheer their team to victory.

The Warriors recycled their rallying cry from the previous season, “Strength in Numbers”, albeit with a beautifully redesigned wordmark  that brilliantly incorporates five tallies that represent both the five players on the court as well as the fifth title that the team was seeking during its 2016 campaign.

Agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners delivered an exceptional campaign that highlighted the strengths of the logo, using the tallies to quantify and visually express the achievements made and records smashed by Golden State this season (73 tallies for their record of games won, 402 for Steph Curry’s record of 3-pointers made, etc.). What better way to brand the success of one of the most dominant basketball teams in NBA history than to use tallies to convey those numbers and give them the context they deserve? Casual fans are likely aware of the team’s mind-blowingly successful season, but providing that visual aid to really drive the point home was phenomenal work. It also doesn’t hurt that the entire campaign is gorgeous as well.

The Cavs won the title on the court, but did they win the marketing battle? Both teams brought forth superstars at the top of their game, clashing in a seven game matchup that will surely be remembered as one of the all-time greatest in Finals history. That kind of star power alone makes the history-resetting series memorable, but proper branding and media management of the hype generated by an event like this makes it historic. What will be interesting now is to see how the Cavs and Warriors will incorporate the results of this clash into their respective branding efforts for their (highly probable) playoff runs next year. Cleveland is no longer the champion-starved underdog. The Warriors will be playing with a fire that can only come from a team of conquerors who destroyed all in their path right up until the game that mattered the most. Now that the tables have turned, so too will the marketing plans for each team next year, and we’re excited to see what will get fans hyped up when the new season begins.



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