The University of Sheffield is one of the United Kingdom’s largest and best-regarded universities, with an international reputation for research and an annual turnover in excess of £400m. With a student population of nearly 26,000, from 125 countries and they have 6,000 staff, almost 1,500 are academic or clinicians. As a member of the Russell Group of UK research-intensive universities, the University of Sheffield excels at research across a breadth of subjects. It is regularly ranked within the top 100 Universities in the world, distinguished by its world-leading research conducted across all disciplines, and by the outstanding quality of teaching and learning for our talented students. In 2011 The University of Sheffield was named UK University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards.
The Sport Department has a footfall of nearly 1 million visits per annum and is ahead of the curve in realising that an holistic approach to balancing the breadth of the service and quality of sport facilities in Universities will become a great asset to the broader offer of the university, as more students look for what kind of life they will lead while studying.
What We Did
The University sports department commissioned Rocca. to consider the future of Sport in HE and engage with Students Union and employees alike, in order to determine the best approach to branding the sports department, to reflect the breadth of the service and ensure flexibility for future development. We began by researching the market. Sport Sheffield via research with customers, made up of students and general public, the results revealed key values and loyalty drivers with an expectation of continuous improvement and communication from a recognised brand linking everything together.
We ran brand workshops to understand what university in sport meant to students and employees alike – structured to get to the heart of what was great about the department, and to generate key marketing messages. The results of the work were striking. In its previous form the department was seen as a facilities management function. One which provided facilities and remedied facility based problems and responded when complained to. This was a far cry from what the department was and wanted to be seen as. Clearly work had to be undertaken in order to shift the perception of the customer – to engage on a one-to-one basis. This would culminate encourage a richer student experience in sport, from the recreational participant to the elite. Rocca. were charged with bringing about a realignment of brand and culture. One which would be more involving for the customer and more rewarding for the organisation.
Beginning with an alignment exercise of current services in parallel came a name change, the organisation began the process of cultural shift. From September 2011 the department would be known as Sport Sheffield – a statement of pride and ownership. This was backed by the adoption of a black and gold colour scheme across the whole brand and sub brands which had been the colours of representative sport. Key communication channels such as the website changed its interaction from that of 'push' to social messaging. It actively invited students to take part – to contribute and to engage in the department's role. This altered the very nature of the department's relationship with its customers. This was a department demonstrating its value to students and asking them to be involved in its future development.
Making It Stick
From here we helped to recruit a Customer Experience and Brand Manager, so that the department could manage the customer experience and communication effectively from within. Rocca also sponsored two sports media interns for twelve months (a first for the University), who would interact with students via social media and attend student events providing feedback and PR opportunities.
The Sport Sheffield brand has been well received by both the university’s student population and Sheffield’s public. The website is generating record traffic, thanks to its interactive nature and content, and the department is now looking forward to the next 5 years with facility development plans and further development and enhancement of the student sport experience at Sheffield. Following the initial rebrand Rocca has since development sport league management software and a web based customer satisfaction tool.