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October 8, 2018 Talking Points

Sports help city, region live up to ‘Hartford Has It’ brand promise

Bill Field

Yes, it took years and multiple ill-fated marketing slogans — including the current “Hartford Has It” campaign — that were doomed from the get-go.

But thanks to the Hartford Yard Goats and Travelers Championship, the city and region are relevant again as a brand. As witnessed in many cities, an economic platform built on the pillars of sports and sports franchises is often ill-fated.

Not so in Hartford.

In the case of these two entities, they're befitting of the honor as “New England's Rising Star(s)” — a decade-long campaign that overreached and under-delivered. The Yard Goats and the Travelers Championship are everything that these manufactured and contrived brand promises failed to deliver.

Having “it” is hard to define but easy to spot. The similarities behind the success of both brands are revealing and extremely relevant to future enterprises that are aimed at fueling growth in the Hartford region.

Here's why they excel:

A brand experience built to last

It's hard to sustain excellence over time. Neither entity is content with the status quo. They're always searching for new ways to engage with fans, be it through better amenities, fan experiences or technology advances.

Through immersive branding, the Yard Goats and Travelers Championship have created experiences that are real. People can't get enough of either and they're left wanting more as year-over-year attendance figures grow.

Committed management teams

The Travelers Championship is led by a remarkable group of professionals who have steered the tournament since its inception. They're devoted people united in a cause to bring big-time sports to the region.

Since becoming the tournament sponsor in 2007, Travelers has never wavered in investing resources and capital in the tournament. It is no coincidence that in 2017, it was named the PGA Tour Tournament of the Year. Even though the tournament is well over a decade old, it has the luster of a brand new car.

The Yard Goats' management team truly understands what it takes to run a successful minor league baseball operation. The Yard Goats exceeded every expectation in 2017 — close to 400,000 fans. The halo impact for the city and the region has been enormous as suburban folks are doing the unthinkable — coming back downtown.

The naysayers who lurk said wait 'til the novelty wears off in 2018. That didn't happen as attendance actually grew this year. You don't get to be “The Best Double-A Ballpark in America” by accident two years in a row.

Too many ventures in Hartford have failed miserably because of a lack of commitment and fortitude to stay the course.

Brand buzz

The words excitement and Hartford aren't usually used in the same sentence, but the Travelers Championship and Yard Goats are new, refreshing and flat out different.

They're outliers in a region begging for things to do and embrace. They've both created a brand personality that's offered people a reason to believe and a reason to belong. It's one that is genuine and not manufactured like many previous marketing efforts. It was built from within and nurtured every step of the way.

The “Hartford Has It” campaign extols the virtues of fun, music, style and food in the region. Nowhere does it mention sports as one of the legs in its brand positioning stool. Attend the Travelers Championship or a Yard Goats game and I'll guarantee you'll have fun, enjoy music, sample great food and immerse in the style that is all your own. It pays off on the brand promise.

Thanks to the Travelers Championship and the Hartford Yard Goats, Hartford truly “Has It.”

Bill Field is the founder of FieldActivate, a Connecticut-based marketing firm.

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