Hartwell Studio Works

Sports Branding Blog

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

Sports Branding at Portfolio Center (or, the Joy of Teaching)


One of the enduring joys of my professional life is teaching at my design alma mater, the renowned Portfolio Center here in Atlanta. I've taught for going on ten years (!), teaching classes on everything from logo design, packaging, and illustration, to my most favoritest class, Sports Branding. I strive to make Sports Branding a different kind of experience for the students. Working in small groups, they develop a brand strategy platform for a selected major league sports property. Leaning heavily on sports marketing strategy concepts outlined in The Elusive Fan,  they create a new brand identity grounded in market strategy, designed to maximize connections to the property's fan base.

At the end of the quarter, the students get the rare opportunity to present their finished work to a panel of sports business professionals. Our panelists have included professionals from the Atlanta Falcons, the Atlanta Hawks, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, The Gwinnett Braves, Delta Airlines, and AT&T, among others. Atlanta-based international sports marketing agency Helios Partners has been an invaluable partner, hosting our panels and helping to make the experience memorable for our students.

It's a special class for me, obviously, because it's a subject that's near and dear to my professional heart. But more to the point, the demands and scope of the class deliverables have opened doors for my students. They've earned awards and recognition, choice internships, and yes, gainful employment because of the high quality of work produced in this class.

astros chiefs lightning LIGHTNING2 panthers raptors rockies thunder

Work by Steve Alvarez, Spencer Bigum, Kate Carmack, Lauren Childs, Hunter Grove, Preston Grubbs, Shannon Hartmark, Sam Kelly, Joanna Milewski, Meredith Morten, Asha Pollard, Peter Smith, Andy Stewart and Chris Yoon.

Imagine my delight, then, when I received a wholly unexpected email from a former student, letting me know that the work he did in Sports Branding directly influenced an award winning campaign he did for an NFL franchise:

"Wanted to let you know that your teachings have been quite successfully put to use: I've just learned that a campaign idea of mine as a freelancer for On Ideas, a Jacksonville ad shop, won them the AoR for the Jaguars...and is their current season campaign, Operation Stand United.

(T)he words, rationale and entire campaign concept are/were mine, and very heavily leveraged what I learned in your class. For that, I thank you.

Thanks again for teaching a hell of a class…(m)y thought was driven entirely by the research and pin-up board process from class, and I even cracked open The Elusive Fan, to drive some points home in my initial pitches.

Not sure if you've received many of these thank-you-while-I-boast emails in the past, but It's the first I've written, and I look forward to sending off many more to those who helped me hone some semblance of a talent :)

Again and again, thank you."

There are lots of reasons,  personal and professional, to teach. While I have certainly enjoyed professional benefits from teaching, I live for the personal moments. There's absolutely nothing like being able to work with someone who wants to know more, who wants to learn, who wants to grow, and see them experience success as a result. It's why I do what I do. It's why I teach.

We're doing Sports Branding again this Winter quarter. I've got a great new group of students who are hard at work developing new brand strategies and creative solutions for three pro sports teams. They're currently neck deep into research, on the front end of developing creative that will excite and inspire.


Hard at work on a Saturday morning. Bring on the bagels!

I love this stuff. The possibilities, the challenges, the risks. It's all part of the creative process. If you've ever considered teaching, let me encourage you to do so. I hope it will be for you, as it is for me, one of the most rewarding efforts in which you ever engage.