The calendar has turned to April, and (for some of us) spring has arrived. In the sports world, this is the time when all eyes are turned to Augusta, Georgia for an annual rite of spring and one of the most famous sporting events in the world: the Masters.

In the immortal (and trademarked) words of longtime broadcaster Jim Nance, the tournament is “A tradition unlike any other.” From a branding standpoint, this holds true as well. The Masters’ brand strength is the foundation of much of its notoriety and prestige.

It’s one of the entities that transcends the sports world and is known across the spectrum of golf fans, from the dedicated spectators who spend thousands of dollars and countless hours to witness it live to those who wouldn’t know a birdie from a driver.masters-nantz-shirt

Part of this can be attributed to the longevity of the tournament and its place in popular culture, while much of it speaks to the strength of itself as a brand. The Masters is one of the few sporting events that can call itself a “brand” in the true sense of the word, complete with a well-known and revered logo, visual identity, name, strategy, etc.

One of the strengths of the Masters’ brand is that for the most part, it’s been the same for the majority of the tournament’s 80 editions. From the pristine Augusta National Golf Club and low-priced pimento cheese sandwiches to the winner’s green jacket and ceremonial opening tee shot, the tournament has fully embraced its tradition, making it a key part of its brand.

Even in the current landscape of unending corporate sponsorship and logos placed anywhere you could imagine, the Masters has maintained much of the same mindset in this area. There are no corporate signs on the grounds of the course, and corporate “partners” are limited to just five brands – who are given a combined four minutes of broadcast ad time per hour, must comply with the no signage decree and are given strict rules on how they can promote their connection with the tournament. The Masters has never been about the business side of the equation, and as the world around it has changed, the committee in charge of the tournament has resisted the need to change for change’s sake, sticking with what they feel works best for them.

484656541This is a lesson many brands can relate to, especially when it comes to their internal brand and brand characteristics. Just because the marketplace is moving in one direction, if it doesn’t make sense for you, staying true to who you are as a brand is infinitely more important than trying to keep up with everyone else. In fact, much like it has with the Masters, chances are this restraint will become one of your brand’s most enduring elements.

Another branding best practice that can be taken from the tournament is to embrace who you are and set a strategy of winning in your space. Don’t try to be everything for everyone, but try and be the best at what you do. The Masters isn’t the biggest sporting event in the country, nor does it appeal to the largest audience. But the tournament knows who its target audience is, knows where in their space they live, and have set out to stand atop that particular mountain. Among golf fans and golfers, there are few places more illustrious than Augusta National and few weeks as anticipated as tournament week, and they have catered their brand around this group, banking on their best qualities to then be passed on from this core group to a wider audience.

This tactic can work for brands of all industries as well – never underestimate the power of word of mouth advertising and brand connotations. Even if there is an audience who doesn’t have firsthand experience with your brand, or if they sit just outside your core market, if you have a high enough quality brand and build enough brand equity, the word will get out, and your secondary markets will grow closer to your core and build your brand even more.

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