Hartwell Studio Works

Sports Branding Blog

Deep thoughts from the studio on all things sports, creative, and some other stuff in-between.

Your Brand, Your Brain, and Your Promise


Developing your brand story is a whole brain exercise. The left brain uses measurable analytics to define business challenges, while the right brain uses creative intuition to attract the target audience.

The brand promise is a key part of that brand story. It’s the pledge you make to set your audience’s expectations about who you are and why they should care.

Your left brain might say that Starbucks’ brand promise is to “brew excellent coffee.” Harley-Davidson’s brand promise might be to “build great motorcycles.”

A good brand promise, however, doesn’t describe what you do. Kicking in your right brain, it instead describes the kind of experience you provide.


One is a product, the other is a promise.

Restated, Starbucks’ brand promise might be “We promise a warm environment where you can relax and form relationships.” Harley-Davidson might be “We promise you the freedom of the wide-open American road.”

What the company does (coffee, motorcycles) serves the larger purpose of delivering an experience. That experience speaks to the audience’s aspirations, which in turn creates an emotional pull toward the brand.

Small college athletics are no different. The left brain demand for revenue generation requires a right brain brand promise to grab an audience.

What you do might be “play college sports,” but your experience is much larger. How you speak to academic, leadership, or professional aspirations creates the emotional pull that attracts more recruits, sponsors, and donors.

Your brand promise is the bottom line “This is why we matter” statement to your audience. Used well, that promise will also matter to your bottom line, strengthening your program and driving institutional growth.

John Hartwell