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Crafting a National Rebrand: How Big Brothers Big Sisters of America made it happen

An interview with BBBSA's VP of Development and Marketing

Crafting a National Rebrand: How Big Brothers Big Sisters of America made it happen

An interview with BBBSA's VP of Development and Marketing

Adam Vasallo profile

Adam VasalloVP of Development and Marketing

Tell us about the origin of the Big Brother Big Sisters of America brand. Historically, what’s been the brand promise since it was conceived in the early 1990s?

Our organization has been around since 1904 -- Big Brothers Association merged with Big Sisters International in 1977, forming Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Since that time, our model has stayed essentially the same -- our local agencies work hard to match kids who need mentors with volunteers who have been screened and trained, and then they support those relationships to ensure they result in positive outcomes. Our vision is that all children achieve success in life, and we believe one-to-one mentoring is the key to that success.

When did the organization decide to rebrand? Who is this new brand directed to and what do you hope to achieve?

In 2016, we began a process of developing a five-year strategic plan. Our leadership spoke to our local agencies and other stakeholders, and something that kept coming up was that our brand needed to be updated, that our agencies would be more successful in attracting volunteers, especially men of color, if we rebranded to be bolder and more modern. That’s our ultimate goal -- to make sure more children are able to be matched with a mentor who can empower them to reach their full potential.

What is the main message you are hoping to express to the world with the introduction of this new identity?

We want to express that the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters is urgent, not just important, because with all the challenges youth face today, from bullying to opioid abuse to violence in their communities, mentoring is essential. Having someone in your corner can make all the difference.

I’ve learned that you coordinated dozens of stakeholder interviews as you crafted the rebrand. Who did you meet with and what did these conversations provide you with?

Our marketing firm, Barkley, met with Bigs, Littles, parents, and prospective Bigs in the Kansas City market. They also conducted focus groups, a nationwide survey of Bigs, and a public survey. They also conducted individual interviews with agency leaders from around the country, key staff from our National Office, and members of our National Board. These conversations gave voice to the need for the rebrand, helped us see how the organization needed to pivot from its current perceptions, and steered the creation of three “territories” -- one of which ended up becoming our new main brand idea.

It is clear that you’re invested in the BBBSA brand. Why is this? Why, in particular, does brand matter in the not-for-profit world versus the for-profit world?

Our brand matters because we want prospective volunteers to immediately think “Big Brothers Big Sisters” when they think of how they could give back to their communities. Volunteering through Big Brothers Big Sisters is powerful, and we have to make sure our brand expresses the power of the experience of mentoring and the urgency of becoming a volunteer. Recruiting more volunteers means serving more kids and furthering our mission.

Tell us about the team or teams at BBBSA whose job it is to focus on brand management and brand development. What does the marketing department look like? Do you use agencies?

We have a staff of eight working on fund development, communications, and marketing. For the rebrand, we have worked with our external marketing firm, Barkley, and relied on a committee of leaders of our agencies to give feedback on ideas, offer suggestions, and spread the message of consistency across the country.

You boast hundreds of member mentoring organizations. What brand consistency complexities does this assume as you work with these constituencies?

We have 270 agencies across the country, and they vary dramatically in size -- some have a staff of 3, whereas others have staffs of over 100. Some serve 100 children per year, some serve thousands. Some have a dedicated marketing team, some can afford an external marketing firm on retainer, and some rely on an intern or a staff person with other responsibilities to manage marketing. Ensuring consistency across the country, regardless of agency size, was one of our biggest goals for this rebrand and continues to be a priority as we move forward and use the brand publicly. This is why Brandfolder is so great for us -- it allows all of our agencies to access and customize the same quality collateral no matter their skills or capacity.

Are there any internal or external concerns about the fact that a 100+ year-old organization is changing the way it presents itself?

Change can be hard! But our agencies are united in wanting a new brand, and they have had a big influence on its development. And they saw the research from our marketing firm, which showed that public awareness of our brand was lower among younger generations, which presents a big problem for future volunteer recruitment. Also, it’s important to remember that our core model is still creating and supporting one-to-one mentoring relationships, so the change is really in the messaging, which we hope will get even more people to believe in the mission.

We see many brands keeping their old brand creative for fun executions and activations down the road. Can you imagine a time when you will use the old BBBSA identity for a fun activation in the future?!

Certainly -- we’d love to do a #ThrowbackThursday series with old branding, including our older logos and older messaging. The Big Brothers movement began in 1904, so there’s a lot of opportunity to have fun with our history.

How will you coordinate with the press and partners to execute this rebrand?

Our corporate partners have been excited to start using the new branding. One especially fun activation nationally was through Lamar -- the billboard company, which donated digital billboard space for us around the country. Our marketing firm created a customizable billboard template, and our local agencies worked with their local Lamar offices to get the digital billboards up starting the day our new logo became public. This was all possible because of Brandfolder -- the logos and the templates were shared with each affiliate and they were able to customize. Local agencies also received a lot of press coverage of the reveal of the new logo, and we hope to get more press coverage and partner involvement in 2019 when we execute our first national volunteer recruitment campaign.

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Brandfolder is a game-changer for us. It allows our agencies, no matter what their marketing skill, to access and customize high quality marketing collateral. It allows all 270 agencies to be consistent with their presentation of the brand but also to have the ability to be creative on a new level and truly meet the needs of their communities. Not to be overdramatic, but using Brandfolder ultimately will help us serve more children. It helps strengthen the brand and saves our agencies’ time, both of which will help them recruit more volunteers and make more matches.

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What other, related or unrelated, non-profit brands do you admire?

Children’s Miracle Network has a phenomenal social media strategy and great corporate partner activations, and St. Jude uses great, inclusive storytelling in their marketing. As a father of two, these two missions resonate with me, and I’m glad they do such great work for kids.

Outside of work, what brands do you personally gravitate to the most?

My family is a Disney family. We watch Disney movies, we have taken trips to Disneyland and Disney World, and this winter, we’ll go on our first Disney cruise. Different aspects of the Disney experience really appeal to our whole family.

What considerations have you taken into account knowing that you have constituencies who speak many different languages?

This is a challenge for us, and we rely on our local agencies, for the most part, to ensure messages are relevant to their local communities.

Fast forward 60 days. You’ve officially launched this new brand and people are starting to talk about it, what’s next? How are you reinforcing the rebrand at BBBSA?

We have two exciting campaigns coming up soon, and one on the horizon. First, Giving Season. For any non-profit, the end of the year is a big time for fundraising. For us, it will not only allow us to continue serving our agencies and helping them make high quality matches between Bigs and Littles into the future, but also enable us to solidify our new brand’s presence on social media. Second, National Mentoring Month. Our national website and our agency’s sites see a big spike in volunteer inquiries in January, which is National Mentoring Month, and we plan a big social push with the new brand and new main brand idea, “Together, We Are Defenders of Potential,” that first month of the new year. And third, we hope to launch a national volunteer recruitment campaign in 2019. We are still fundraising to cover the cost of the campaign’s creation, but the goal is to provide a strategy and collateral that our agencies will be able to use for years to come. All three of these campaigns will create awareness of the new brand and give our agencies experience in using it in their communities to recruit volunteers and donors to support the mission.

Why are you using Brandfolder to deliver, manage and track the new BBBSA brand?

Brandfolder is a game-changer for us. It allows our agencies, no matter what their marketing skill, to access and customize high quality marketing collateral. It allows all 270 agencies to be consistent with their presentation of the brand but also to have the ability to be creative on a new level and truly meet the needs of their communities. Not to be overdramatic, but using Brandfolder ultimately will help us serve more children. It helps strengthen the brand and saves our agencies’ time, both of which will help them recruit more volunteers and make more matches.

Last question: If you could shine a light on one individual who has been an MVP in this rebrand process, who would it be? Why?

I have to say our marketing firm, Barkley. They have gone above and beyond to understand the landscape of youth-serving organizations, listen to our agencies, get to know our Bigs and Littles, and position us in a way that helps us grow into the future and continue changing the world through mentoring.

By Luke Beatty

October 2018

Adam's Bio:

Adam Vasallo is the VP of Development and Marketing for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Adam joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in January 2018 and leads the development team in creating corporate partnerships and relationships with individual donors to generate the necessary funds needed to fulfill the organization’s vision of ensuring all children achieve success in life. In his role, Adam also oversees all marketing operations of the National Office.

Prior to joining Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Adam spent 11 years at HSN, where he held several senior level development and marketing roles including Director of New Business Development. In that role, Adam cultivated and grew multi-year corporate partnerships by driving customer engagement, generating incremental revenue, and acquiring new customers through storytelling, unique experiences, and multichannel marketing programs anchored in content.

Adam was a Big Brother for seven years prior to his Little Brother leaving for college. Adam also served on the Pinellas County Leadership Council for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay prior to joining the National Office. Adam is a board member for Preserve the ‘Burg, a member of the University of South Florida Digital Marketing Advisory Board, and an alumnus of Leadership Pinellas.

Adam has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications from the University of South Florida and a Master of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University.

Adam and his wife, Robyn, were married in 2010 and have two children, Addison and Zachary.

Connect with Adam Vallaso: LinkedIn

 

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