Guest Post: Writing an Effective Creative Brief

seattleubasketballToday’s post is courtesy of guest blogger Bill Peck.

A creative brief is a document that outlines the conversation between an agency or marketing group and the team or client around a strategic marketing and communications effort to accomplish an end goal –more revenue. A creative brief is usually the least you can expect from a creative agency when putting together a communications and marketing plan for a certain team or season. I’ve worked with at least one organization that did this every off-season in preparation for the next season of competition. At that particular organization, there was a complete renovation of marks, logos and brand identity during my tenure in addition to a long term plan of tactics set forth for at least a few years into the future. Building on that and other experiences, an effective creative brief does several things for your brand strategy…here are a few examples:

  • It defines who you think your fans are
  • It outlines what you do for your fans and customers
  • It gives the complete outline of what your team is trying to accomplish, from the 50,000 foot view down to ground level

Essentially a creative brief gets the conversation started about the “5 W’s” – who, what, when, where, why. It incorporates everything from where are we now to where do we want to be and gets a dialogue going between the people who know strategic marketing and communications along with the people who know the game, the team and the fans. In more detail and taken from a class project I did as a graduate student at Seattle University, an effective creative brief asks the following questions:

  • Who is our target?
  • What do they think, feel or do right now?
  • After this touch or this campaign, what do we want them to think, feel or do?
  • What is the main thought of this campaign?
  • Why should the target care about this?
  • What else do we need to know to get started?
  • Any thought starters?
  • Anything we should avoid?

These questions are the framework from which to build your creative brief, but to be effective, a creative brief is just that, brief. It is a one to two page maximum length document that gives you a starting point from which to work toward final goals.

Here is an example of a creative brief one might put together for a college basketball program:

  • Who is our Target?
    • Current students are our first priority because this is an audience that is already involved in campus life and are peers to the athletes on the court.  The student connection must be developed if we are to create a premier college basketball game environment.
    • Seattle University alumni are another critical primary target because these are people who already have a strong connection to our institution, especially senior alumni who were students at a time of great athletic success for SeattleU and remember SU as a perennial contender for the national title.
    • Young alumni are a target audience who likely have disposable income and looking for a way to support their institution.
    • Alumni and people with families who are looking for affordable entertainment options are another target audience of importance.
    • Basketball fans who are looking for affordable tickets to see high-quality, local teams at a highly visible community arena.  SeattleU will work to market every aspect of the team, including the regional opponents as a potential lead to draw fans into the building.
    • High school students and families.  SeattleU prides itself on being a community partner that connects with people on a personal level.  Use these connections to build on the fun aspect of sports and the connections that come from the shared experience of live presence at sporting events.  As an affordable entertainment option, SU encourages high school students and families to be a part of a great game experience that is easy to find.
    • What do they think, feel, or do right now?
      • Many students are currently unaware that Seattle University has a basketball team – we must develop awareness.
      • Of the students who are aware of the team, many of them are not aware of the free benefits available to them, including:
        • Free transportation to/from KeyArena
        • Free admission with SU ID
        • Free $5 concession vouchers for first 50 students
        • Student entertainment on the concourse during pre-game
        • Tons of free giveaways during the season
  • In a close-knit campus community, word travels fast; many do not feel a connection with the team or its players
  • After this touch or this campaign, what do we want them to think, feel, or do?
    • Personal connection to Seattle University basketball players and deeper connection to University
    • “This is Seattle Basketball.”
    • Engage with team players and coaches and with other fans
    • What is the main thought of this campaign? (or campaign elements)
      • “ON A MISSION”
      • Why should the target care about this?
        • We are at the heart of Seattle and the only collegiate sports team that bears that name.
        • We are downtown and at the heart of the city, both on and off campus.
        • We are a university community that supports SeattleU’s Jesuit mission and vision.  We are about students, alumni, and family.
        • We have a history of outstanding athletics success and seek to build upon that tradition of excellence.
        • We are an entertaining collegiate atmosphere that thrives on the energy and passion of its student body, THE RED ZONE.
        • What else do we need to know to get started?
          • Seattle University marketing brand strategy and licensing protocol.
          • Include traditional media such as TV, radio, and billboards.
            • Use TV games as an avenue to reach a broad audience and emphasize the “have to be here” experience
            • Drive attendance to TV games and emphasize all games on same radio dial
            • Place billboards strategically in areas with high alumni concentrations or near social centers
  • Include social media and engage fans in conversation
    • Standard: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, team blog
    • Other: Gowalla, Tumblr, Flickr, etc.
  • Promote pricing discounts on group purchases through Groupon or LivingSocial
  • Develop a piece of fan gear that can be used in PR stunts, displayed in-game, and used year-round
    • Especially around holiday shopping season
  • Develop a fan guide, print and online
    • Include fight song lyrics and audio, cheers, RedZone facts and questions, links to social media and team/University websites, Q&A about the team and coaches, University athletics history and timeline
  • Develop personal connections with players through online videos and team blog
  • Integrate in-game messaging read by student athletes
  • Anything we should avoid?
    • We are not the University of Washington and don’t associate or compare ourselves with them.
    • Focus on the positive and encourage feedback
      • Avoid being a victim plagued by low attendance and lack of student presence

What do we want our fans to do after we start talking to them? This is a great question – begin with the end in mind.

Something else worth noting is that last question – “anything we should avoid?” When working with an outside organization this is an especially important question and one you might not consider until it is too late or until the brief has already been assembled. If you know of something that didn’t work last year or the year before, get that out into the open. If you got zero clicks on a few ads you put online, let your creative team know this. The more you can collaborate and work together, the more likely the final plan of where to begin will succeed.

I hope this post has helped you and I’d love to hear what you think about how your marketing team is doing with their own creative brief. Please leave your comments below. Go Forth!

Bill Peck is a sports business professional whose experience is in both internal and external operations. Bill’s Sports Business Blog can be found at

One thought on “Guest Post: Writing an Effective Creative Brief

  • June 7, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    It is a nice overview. I think though that lots of sport organizations skip the essential view of their internal analysis (e.g. SWOT exercise).

    If you don’t know your inner strengths-weaknesses, your external approach to your target group (even with creative brief) will never be optimal.

Comments are closed.