One of the biggest challenges many teams face is differentiating themselves whilst adhering league brand guidelines.  It was a common theme with the teams I met with on #sportsgeektrip.

Many leagues across the globe follow a similar digital model.  League web sites are developed and team web sites are created under the league umbrella.

MLB.com, NBA.comNHL.com, AFL.com.au are some examples of these Leagues that follow this “Umbrella model”.
(*edit thanks for comment: Essendon stand alone as an exception running independently of the AFL very successfully with EssendonFC.com.au)

If you take a look at team websites e.g. LA Dodgers Vs New York Yankees or Collingwood Vs Hawthorn you’ll see some team customization but they are locked into a League framework.  The NBA follows a similar model but teams are using custom landing pages (or splash pages like the Mavs do) to offer fans special deals.

Other leagues like the NFL.com & PremierLeague.com have decoupled the League’s web deal from the teams.

What’s better?

The “Umbrella model” makes administration of League branding much easier and sometimes can lead to a better sponsorship deal as it is league-wide.  However, it can be restrictive both creatively and financially to the teams who want to push the Web 2.0 envelope.  From a technical prospective a league wide CMS (content management system) does reduce the need for in-house web staff for teams but many people who use these systems find them too restrictive.  Leagues that abandon the “Umbrella model” face the problem of a potentially creating a tech gap between the have and have-nots.  Some teams like those run by MSG (Knicks, Rangers, Liberty) help promote their teams outside the standard team’s sites through the stadium (TheGarden.com), then again with so many sports properties MSG is a unique business.

What are your thoughts?

  • Does the ability for league’s to secure deals outweigh a team’s desire to innovate?
  • Would teams do a better job if they could go it alone?
  • Would small-market teams struggle maintaining own website?

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