Glyph Equity and Brand Transference

Do you remember when Nike changed its logo by removing the "NIKE" text from below the swoosh glyph? I do. The first time I saw it was at the end of a Nike TV commercial and I was completely blown away. Basically they were saying "Look, we know that you know who we are. We are so confident in our brand and our swoosh glyph that we are going to remove our company's name from our advertising — because we know that you know who we are." That was a pretty bold statement, as few other corporate glyphs have that type of recognition without the accompanying text that makes the logo complete. The golden arches of McDonald's and the apple-sans-bite of Apple Computer are two comparable glyphs that come to mind.

Today, the brand landscape is changing even more. Nike has invested enough money in the "meaning" associated with their glyph that subsequent sport sponsorship only serves two purposes: first, to refresh that meaning from time to time, but perhaps more importantly, to defensively prevent adidas or Reebok from developing the same amount of glyph equity. At this point, there is no way that as many people would recognize the adidas or Reebok logos if the corporate text was not also attached to the glyph.

So while Nike is using sponsorship in this context, perhaps they are also attempting to pioneer a step in the branding process beyond brand loyalty, which we can call brand mark transference. That is, how much impact can the Nike brand have on the Jumpman or LeBron23 brands?

Companies in other segments hope that the answer is significant and in the positive. "All advertising advertises advertising," Marshall McLuhan noted, so when NBC Sports points out that Tiger Woods shills for Nike even while he appears in commercials for other sponsors, those sponsors hope that there is simultaneously a brand transference factor working in their favour.

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