Fantasy Brands That Will Lead You to a Championship

September 8th, 2016

by Dan Gibson

We’ve all heard of Fantasy Sports and we all know someone obsessed with their team, consisting of real life professional athletes. I’ve played fantasy football for several years (being called a nerd is nothing new to me) and I’m still hooked, excited, and hopeful to win the league I’m in and the cash prize that comes with the title. The NFL regular season starts tonight and right now, I’m confident my team is the best! Don’t ask me what I think next week though…

As I was researching and preparing for my league’s draft this past week, I started to think of other applications for the “fantasy” concept and thought I would explore how it can relate to brands. Yes, also nerdy.

As marketers, the wheels are always turning to come up with fresh ideas and concepts we can use to create amazing marketing materials for whatever company we work for. We sometimes forget to look to the strongest brands in the world for inspiration and guidance. The brands included in my list range in size and industry, but have many things in common: they utilize strong branding and design, good consistent content (no matter the channel), have a strong social media presence, and aren’t afraid to take smart chances. I’ve broken this post down into “top picks”, which are no brainers, “local favorites” you can learn from and root for, and the “sleeper picks” that are making serious noise, but might get overlooked at times.

So here they are, the top brands you want on your team!

Top 3 Picks 

Amazon – Pretty obvious. The Antonio Brown of brands. Always consistent and trustworthy.  Spend the time to learn about what they do and how they do it. Known for exceptional customer service and innovation, Amazon continues to use technology to grow and reach new people. Drones, Iot, logistics, artificial intelligence, community involvement, employee education, and probably anything else you can think of. Amazon does it and does it well.

Apple – Despite news that Apple has recently experienced a decline in sales, they are still on a level all their own. They got there by utilizing beautifully simple and functional product design, along with creative, inspirational, and strategic marketing that resulted in die hard brand loyalty. Apple is bigger than a brand, it’s a cultural movement that loyal customers use to define themselves. So yeah, a no brainer at the top. Look to Apple for ways to craft concise direct messaging and how to utilize clean, modern, eye catching design.

Tesla – Maybe the Odell Beckham Jr. of brands. (in relation to this post) Tesla is disrupting the auto industry with it’s electric car and innovative energy storage (batteries). A relatively young company (13 years) Tesla has no limits on what the company and it’s high profile CEO, Elon Musk, want and can achieve. They’ve built a brand based on innovation and are (literally) shooting for Mars, which is probably where Elon will live soon. The moon is too close for Tesla. Similar to how OBJ burst on the seen and became great quickly, Tesla has done the same.

Local Favorites

Founders Brewing – Took a chance on themselves by brewing bold tasting beer for… themselves. They’ve done an amazing job of telling their story and using it to guide their marketing efforts. They continue to brew beer that pushes the limits, which has led to rapid growth and market expansion.

The Mitten State – Has been able to leverage our Michigan pride to build a growing t-shirt and apparel business. They do an outstanding job with their online experience and have also begun to expand their brick and mortar business. They’ve set themselves apart from other Michigan pride brands by printing a variety of unique vintage inspired designs on very high quality shirts (THE softest things ever). They’re able to capture nostalgic feels for our favorite cities, sports teams, and anything iconic related to our beloved mitten state and turn that into sales. Simple, right?

Spectrum Health – A very visible brand, especially in West Michigan. Spectrum continues to expand in our state and is dedicated to being known as a leader in health care providers. They strive to be at the forefront of healthcare service innovation to provide exceptional patient experiences. Health care is a tough industry to gain and maintain a positive reputation, but Spectrum has built a trusted brand through it’s community involvement and research efforts. They’ve spread the word through great content and marketing, utilizing consistency in messaging and knowing how to reach different demographics.

Grand Rapids Futbol Club (GRFC) – Supported by strong and enthusiastic local sponsorship, GRFC burst onto the West Michigan sports scene in 2014. They had built a strong following before a game had even been played, by opening up founding member opportunities and holding several exclusive events. Once the season kicked off, they captured the European soccer atmosphere through pre-game parties, club chants, and by creatively marketing additional promotions, while establishing an exciting and dynamic event experience. Look to them for ideas on how to build word of mouth and capitalize on it.

Sleeper Picks

Snapchat – Rapidly taking control of the social media game. Snapchat captures the moment like no one else. The unique social media platform utilizes it’s story feature to help users share what’s going on right in the moment. Plus, your mom probably isn’t on it…yet. It’s only a matter of time before Snapchat is (most likely) overcome by ads just like those before it, but right now Snapchat is the new kid in town and on the rise. Use Snapchat as your own creative marketing tool and learn from them by thinking outside the box.

(Check out our upcoming luncheon event to learn more about Snapchat marketing HERE!)

Trader Joe’s – Despite being a large chain of mid-sized grocery retail stores, Trader Joe’s knows their target market (the Apple die hard, Subaru driver, hemp lover, and Patagonia loyal) and figured out how to connect with them. By utilizing local artists to create signage and offering an abundance of tasty and healthy grocery options, sourced both locally and nationally, they built their own enthusiastic following. Don’t forget about cookie butter and all the pumpkin spice everything you’ll find on shelves very soon. A great source for ideas on expanding product offerings paired with unique branding and marketing to capture a niche market.

PayPal – A major player in the mobile commerce space that is rapidly shifting, PayPal has branched off from eBay to allow themselves to form new partnerships and acquire other smaller startups, in order to keep their edge on the competition. PayPal has leveraged it’s reputation for strong security to maintain loyal users, while continuing to evolve and influence the future of mobile payments and banking. Look to them for ideas on how to collaborate within your industry and connect to users of your product.

Slack – The anti email startup that is eager to change how we communicate at work has grown quickly despite debates on how distracting it may or may not be. Another example of a tech company knowing it’s users, Slack has caught on with sleek interface design and thoughtful user experience. They considered our love of emojis, memes, and animated GIFs by adding in all of those elements so you can have fun while getting work done. I’ll gladly take Slack over Skype in any league and I’ll see you in the playoffs.

Honorable Mention: Warby Parker, Spotify, Lyft, Rockford Construction, Hopcat, and Grand Rapids Griffins.

There they are, the brands that can help lead you to championship level marketing. Don’t be afraid to look outside your own industry for inspiration. That’s often a great way to spark an idea or learn something new. As always, do your research to find the brands that inspire you and your team. Also, don’t forget to check out the newly launched AMA brand and join us at our monthly luncheon events to network and learn from your local peers. You might find an inside scoop on the next hottest campaign!