White paper - Disruptive branding in sport

January 20, 2022

The emphasis of brand and marketing has shifted from the 19th century notion of features and benefits, to a more customer centric and tribal approach. This gives brands a huge opportunity to align their core purpose with their fans values, develop a clearly defined personality, and create strong and trusted brand equity.

This white paper gives you an introduction to the ROAR framework (Research, Onlyness, Appearance, Roadmap) and focuses on a section of the first step (and would argue the most important part) of brand strategy – differentiation.

The aim of this white paper is to give you the tools to and knowledge to successfully start the process of building the foundation of your own brand and set your company off on a positive path.

Disrupt the game

In a world of mass communication, how will your brand stand out from the crowd?

The answer is…

Our brains are wired to notice what’s different. When they see something that’s out of the ordinary we are naturally drawn to it. It’s the brain's natural defence against danger, meaning we can differentiate between dog vs tiger, shadow vs sinkhole, edible vs poisonous.

If you are to catch your customers' attention in the split second you have in their daily lives, and the tens of thousands of competing communications, you must have something so radical and so compelling that they take immediate action. This is called disruptive branding and we can see these kinds of brands all around us carving out their own categories or eliminating their competitors.

Disruptive brands have a genuine relationship with their audience. They have a deep understanding of the customers’ desires and challenges – they know how to communicate with them at a personal level, they are hard to copy and offer something unique to the current number one in their category.

Blockbuster Video was the leading and well loved video rental store for many years. At its height it had over 9,000 stores and employed over 84,000 people across multiple countries. Who would have thought that it could all come crumbling down in a relatively short amount of time? But with the arrival of the disruptor brand Netflix, with their subscription model and the rise of online video streaming, Blockbuster was left behind the curve and the company filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Some might argue that if they had the foresight, courage, and forward thinking required to innovate and adapt, they could have remained as number one in their category. But as the saying goes, ‘If you don’t think about the next move, someone else will’.

The key here for any brand is to think of ways to be REALLY different.


There are three words in branding that will help set you apart from your competitors. 

Focus, focus, focus!

One of the most important (and difficult) parts of the strategy process is to say no. Defining a niche is your biggest competitive advantage. It is one of the best and fastest ways to create brand awareness and put your brand in the position of being the number one in your category. Because when you talk to everyone, you in fact talk to nobody.

When we say focus, we mean not being general. Focus on one audience type, one offering, being number one in your category. This idea runs counterintuitively to traditional marketing instinct. Traditional thinking would suggest that if you shout at everyone, someone will hear and buy your product. 

To build a brand tribe, you need to answer one very hard, but fundamental question: Why does it matter to your audience?

This one question will be one of the hardest you will have to answer as a business, yet will make or break your brand. Unless you have compelling answers to all three of these questions, then you do not have a brand and you will be losing market share as a result.

Take the focus test:

1. Who are you? ___________We are …

2. What do you do? _________We provide …

3. Why does it matter ________It matters because …

Defined minimal viable audience.

It’s tempting to have aspirations to serve a mass market, but it’s a myth, there's no such thing as a mass market. The bottom line is that trying to please everyone requires you to dilute so much of what makes your proposition unique, you’ll end up appealing to nobody.


Airbnb didn’t start with millions of customers, they started focusing on making sure they could get 100 customers who loved their proposition. This was their minimum viable audience.

“It was better to have 100 people who loved us vs. 1 million people who just liked us. All movements grow this way. There was no way we could get 1 million people on Airbnb, but we could get 100 people to love us.”

– Brian Chesky, Founder & CEO of Airbnb

Being so specific helped the Airbnb team to create a proposition that people loved and helped to build brand loyalty and a brand tribe many companies in their category could only dream of.

What is the smallest group of people you could target successfully today, knowing certainly

where to find them, how to talk to them, what problems they are facing and that you would be their number one choice?

Finding ways to creatively overcome customer challenges or pain-points is a fast track way to differentiate you from the competition and put your brand at the forefront of customers' minds when making a purchasing decision.

Imagine the power of a disruptor brand that can focus on a specific audience, speaking directly to them in a way that fulfills their needs and desires. This is a fast track way to build loyalty and build a brand tribe.

Now that’s an undeniable proposition many businesses strive for.

The ROAR framework

The ROAR framework consists of four branding pillars (Research, Onlyness, Appearance, Roadmap).

Let’s run through a brief overview in a little more detail to shed some light on the branding process and the positive impact a brand can have on your business.


The biggest temptation of branding is for someone to stand up and declare they know what the problem is and jump straight into visual identity. But, before the branding process can begin, we must investigate the brand landscape to understand where issues or frustrations lie.

Where does the brand currently stand in the market?

How does the customer perceive the brand?

Are there any communication issues, or company culture frustrations?

Answers to these questions can align the company positioning and reveal a market gap that will ultimately inform the brand personality and visual communication.


What makes you unique? This part can often leave you scratching your head at times, but is vital to the success of your brand. 

Our strategic and verbal approach is what glues the company together and drives who you are, what you say, and how you dress. It’s what gives your brand personality. We work with you to build a set of attributes that will go on to describe the brand and steer any future marketing communications. We define what you do and how you do it. These are usually descriptive, nuts and bolts, functional, 'doing' and 'process' statements.

We work with you to set-out the long-term ambitions of the company - either linked to legacy 'mission/vision' statements or written afresh.


This can sometimes be the trickiest and most subjective part of the branding process. This is because it’s the part that most people see, and it’s easy for emotions to steer the design process. This is why it’s crucial to have an understanding of the target audience at a deep level. Personas can help to bring focus, making sure design aligns with the customer preference.

Starting with your name and tagline, we dive deep into how your brand looks, both visually and verbally. We refer to a brand as being like a person, and just like a person we develop a way of talking and dressing (logo, image style, fonts etc).

Once the designs are finalised, you are provided with a style bible, and the design assets to use in your communications and brand activations.


This last step is where we turn theory into action. 

A brand is useless without a plan of action. We take a 30,000ft view on the company and its long term goals. With this information, we can plan this into the final roadmap.

Based on the identified brand gaps, market gaps and opportunity gaps, it is now time to turn the problems into solutions and solutions into actions so that we can bridge the gaps!

We are fiercely passionate about brand success, our process aligns business goals with audience needs through an actionable and measurable roadmap.

Final thoughts

Building a brand is an often long and complicated process, but starting at the core of why you exist, understanding your customers at a deep level, and disrupting your category will set you off on a good footing for future commercial success.

Our clients have achieved increased brand awareness, increased profits and a more unified business as a result of following our framework.

Contact us for a free consultation to discuss how you too can achieve strong brand growth.

Let's change the game