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The Sixers—How We Built ‘Together We Build’

October 30, 2013

On draft night, the Philadelphia 76ers front office made its strategy clear. Being good enough to compete each year as a fringe playoff contender is not going to lead to a championship. The message is that ‘good enough is not good enough’ for the franchise or fan base. So off came the Band-Aid and a progression to brighter days began in earnest.

There will be nights this season when the future Sixers fans dream about will seem tantalizingly close – as well as nights when the entire endeavor feels hopeless. Most everyone in town is comfortable with this, but the Sixers are also a business. There is likely a great deal of basketball between now and the future we all envision. And, of course, seats to fill, sponsors to pitch, ads to sell along the way.

So when Finch Brands gratefully received the assignment to work with the Sixers on the brand message and creative approach for the franchise at this critical juncture, all involved understood that this could not be a ‘business-as-usual’ marketing campaign. None of the traditional team marketing approaches would fit here.

Nostalgia would not – the Sixers have rightly offered a lot of that in the past, but the focus is the future. Telling the story of specific players would not – the roster is very much in flux. A generic set of attributes would not – the new ownership and management is working towards a new level of energy on the court and in the organization. The Philadelphia fan is not stupid. A blend in campaign with all the marketing polish and hype is not going to fool anybody.

So there we were – to their credit, the Sixers wanted to be honest yet inspiring. They didn’t just seek a transitory marketing theme, but a call to action that would sell tickets AND pervade their own organization. They wanted a brand message that invites fans to join a journey of indefinite length with hopeful yet uncertain reward. To trust a franchise that has been largely aimless for a decade. To sign up for the unavoidable pain that will precede the pleasure of a winning team.

The big idea for the work came from a realization that the values the organization is trying to nurture in itself are the same values that drive this passionate city. Hard work. Determination. No short cuts. Doing things the right way. Philly loves a winner, but the legendary teams and athletes of this city are those in whom we see a bit of ourselves. Clarke. Dawkins. Iverson. Utley. The ’93 Phillies. The ’00-’01 Sixers.

‘Together We Build’ is the answer because of how it honestly captures the moment for this franchise while reflecting the unique spirit of this city. And how it seeks to join Philadelphia and its 76ers in a common journey based on shared values, mutual respect, and high hopes.

For natives like me, there is risk of an idea like the above being delivered creatively in a hackneyed, eye-rolling way. Philly blue collar blah. Cheesesteak blah. Rocky blah. Tri-corn hat blah. When Jordan Goldenberg and our creative team got down to bringing this idea to life, he focused on being far more atmospheric and authentic than typical team campaigns or than those old Philadelphia clichés.

The visuals include the meshing of iconic Philadelphia structures with industrial objects – neither postcard-clean nor trite. The work includes 40 different images shot in surprising and appealing ways, delivered on tickets, billboards, credentials, etc. with a very consistent, authentic vibe. As it moves into broadcast media, this balance will need to be maintained. Candid not corny. Philly as it is, not the caricature.

The goal is for ‘Together We Build’ to not be a one-year theme, but a rallying cry for a generation of Sixers basketball. This era will ultimately be remembered for what happens on the court. Yet throughout this process, the focus, energy, and commitment of the entire Sixers organization has been on full display. Together we built ‘Together We Build,’ and we can’t wait to see what happens next.

Bill Gullan, President
Tweeting: @BillGullan

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