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Motion Branding

by | Sep 15, 2016

By Don Schaaf

As Ferris Bueller famously said, “Life moves pretty fast.” I have been blessed with an advertising and branding career that has now spanned three decades. From that HDTV logo you see printed in the lower corner of your television set to new magazine launches for National Geographic to international trade show campaigns to cocktail napkins for a client’s off-sight meeting, I have enjoyed the privilege to work for a stellar group of clients, and with great creative teams.

Advertising is working the angles, of course. But motion branding is making these angles work at, on and overtop angles. It is two-dimensional design applied to three-dimensional shapes — trying your best to achieve no loss of readability, intent or brand consistency. When your shape is stationary and the canvas is large, like an 18-wheeler idling at a stoplight, the design challenge is somewhat easier. But when that shape is significantly smaller and moving at 200 mph, well, you can imagine how the creative challenge intensifies.

For NASCAR, we have worked on all sides of the brand — from creating trackside wall banners at Daytona (what the drivers and in-car cameras see) to sponsor promotion and merchandising (back when MCI was the “official telecommunications provider”) to actual car wraps for Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kennametal and WIDIA-sponsored cars. We’ve produced designs for Jamie McMurray’s racing suit, his pit crew’s outfits and even his WIDIA “hero card,” those oversized, baseball card-like handouts that NASCAR fans collect. If you’ve ever been to a race, you know that little value is given to elegant design. Auto racing is loud, bold and in-your-face. Subtlety goes virtually un-noticed, while color and bold shapes draw the most attention. Add to this that drivers, teams and fans alike respond to designs that make the cars “look fast standing still.”

A bobsled, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal. For the past five seasons, our company has provided the designs to wrap the USA Bobsled/Skeleton team’s fleet of nine World Cup/Olympic sleds.

It was at a World Cup race that we noticed that if 100% of the sleds’ bodies were sponsor branded, it made it very hard to distinguish the country represented. So we devised a unique “USA tail treatment,” a red, white and blue element that would be added to every American sled for brand consistency. It essentially comes down to a formula where the sponsor gets ¾ of the sled’s surfaces and the team takes the other ¼. The added benefit, particularly to American sponsors, is that their brand is instantly associated with the home team. Over the years we’ve created sleds carrying some powerful sponsorship brands, including Under Armour, KOA Kampgrounds, FDNY 9/11 Tribute, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Century 21, National Guard, 24 Hour Fitness, Classroom Champions and more.

Lastly, we are often tasked with branding fleets of vehicles for our clients, including Kennametal, Rand Construction, Linemark Communications, David Edward Furniture, Contract Carpet Systems, Gold Leaf Landscaping and more. Kennametal, an international industrial tooling manufacturer, brands all their vehicles worldwide, from large trucks all the way down to the cars used by their sales representatives. It can be challenging at times, because each countries’ vehicles are varied, but it is also very rewarding to see a social post from India that features a Kennametal yellow car sporting our “flagship stripe” element.


(Don Schaaf is the founder and president of ds+f, a D.C.-based marketing, advertising and branding firm. He is a frequent speaker on the power of a solid brand, as well as an advisor to charity and non-profit boards and organizations. His proudest business accomplishment to date is to see ds+f recognized on INC. 500’s list of the fastest growing companies.)

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