One of the most important strategic decisions marketers can make is brand positioning. It is crucial because it reflects a choice of how an organization's capabilities will be leveraged and communicated to differentiate from competition. A brand without a clear position is doomed because there is little or no perceived difference between it and alternatives. Positioning is particularly important for new or upstart brands attempting to gain traction in the market. People have to be convinced that they should depart from the status quo and adopt a different behavior. In the case of MLS, this challenge means convincing sports fans that being a supporter of an MLS club or fan of the league offers unique benefits that cannot be realized with other sports brands.
The basis upon which a brand is positioned is very flexible- there is "one right way" to position a brand. Marketers are tasked to determine a point of difference that is to become the basis of a brand position. Two criteria that an effective positioning basis must meet are:
- Is it real? - Does the point of difference actually exist for the brand? In other words, if you make a claim about how your brand is better, different, or unique there must be proof to back it up.
- Is it relevant? - A point of difference can be real, but if it does not matter to the target market it is little more than a novelty. Brand positioning is not about being different for the sake of being different. There is an old saying that you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. Relevant brand positioning leverages a brand's point of difference that will resonate with customers and others.
In a recent interview with MLS Commissioner Don Garber on the state of the league, he mentioned the importance of local club fans to build the MLS brand:
"It’s a matter of building your fan base and being more relevant in the local markets, having fans that really care about their clubs..."
Do you agree with "bottom up" strategy of MLS, making growth in local markets a priority? Or, should MLS pursue a different strategy to differentiate its brand to compete in the American sports industry?