The USA Gymnastics rebrand had two clear goals: unite the sport and move it forward.
USA Gymnastics has transformed as an organization and is in the midst of a new movement, promoting a culture that prioritizes athlete safety, support and collaboration. Standing atop podiums around the globe, USA Gymnastics athletes have long been the rightful face of the sport. With a brand that had not been substantively updated since 2003 and with a past that required a complete overhaul of the organization’s leadership, mission and values, the USA Gymnastics visual brand and voice were overdue for a change.
To unite the sport and move it forward required that the brand be about more than just design. Along with a new logo came a new tone and new brand identity, particularly on social media, where our goal was to create one cohesive, identifiable voice and compelling content that would bring the gymnastics community together to rally around the excitement of the sport, the greatness of its athletes, and a shared passion for the future.
Our new tagline, “The Movement Starts Here,” refers to the physical movements of gymnastics as a foundational sport, the Olympic movement, and the forward progression of the entire sport. With the brand and all of its facets, we hope to help change the conversation around gymnastics and put our athletes first, setting in motion a new voice rooted in inclusion, positivity, and resilience.
The rebrand campaign had three phases: the start of a new social media strategy in July 2022, the brand debut in August, and a content build-out since the reveal.
Phase one was the change in our social strategy and tone that began in July, creating a space for collaboration between the organization, athletes and, the audience. It is here that we faced our biggest challenge: the previous, overwhelmingly negative perception of USA Gymnastics as an entity. Formerly, USA Gymnastics was using social media primarily as a billboard for news, we we shifted to a people-driven approach with athlete-centered posts and higher engagement with fans. Instead of solely celebrating athlete accomplishments, we encouraged them. By changing our tone, we began to change the conversation.
The brand reveal in August 2022 was the second phase, beginning with a “teaser” on social media before a public and social media unveiling tied to our National Championships and National Congress. Our posts on all channels featured the new logo, driven by a flame that put an abstract rendering of an athlete at the forefront. Animated graphics brought to life the meaning of each piece of the logo. The flame itself is the core of the visual brand, as the universal symbol of knowledge, rebirth, and of the Olympic movement itself.
The brand reveal was covered by international media, including the Associated Press, Sports Business Journal, Inside the Games, Around the Rings, The Sports Examiner, as well as endemic and other sports outlets around the globe. While not everyone initially loved the new brand – no brand succeeds there – public reaction on social media was largely positive. One of our followers reflected: “This a long overdue and incredible transformation. There remains work to be done and a challenge will always be the past with such deep wounds and terrible scars... It was thoughtfully designed with aspiration for what is possible and what many are working toward. Negativity remains in even the best of circumstances… The forward momentum, modern style, movement and flame of the logo very much exemplifies the strength, beauty and resilience of our athletes. #USAgymnastics knows full well the world is watching.”
Phase three of the content build-out is ongoing and driven by 10 tactics:
Our audiences and athletes are now responsive to our content in a way not seen since 2016, and our followers are more invested in all athletes and receptive to our content – not just women’s gymnastics. In fact, our top-performing post of 2022 was not from an Olympian, but rather double-mini trampoline athlete Ruben Padilla – our Instagram Reel highlighting his talent has surpassed 415,000 views!
Our social media metrics demonstrate how the sport has been united and moved forward by the new brand and our organizational transformation. In the seven months since the campaign was launched and the new social media voice was adopted, there has been a 47% increase in engagement and 26% increase in impressions across all of our platforms compared to the first seven months of 2022. Also significant, August 2022 marked the first time the USA Gymnastics social media channels all saw an increase in followers since the Olympics in July 2021.
Our shift in tone was paired with a content strategy shift. Comparing the seven-month periods before and after the brand launch, USA Gymnastics has posted 61% more videos, totaling more than 8.4 million impressions. On Twitter, we increased from 691 published tweets to 1,252 tweets, with much of the additional activity attributable to direct engagement with fans, followers and elite athletes.
Beyond the numbers, the most important result was to ensure the athletes bought in – and they have! Prior to the rebrand, gymnasts were hesitant to share content from USAG and rarely engaged with posts. Since our transformation, athletes now share, comment on and thank USA Gymnastics for our social media engagement. There is a sense of pride when they see themselves featured on our platforms and our content, posting comments such as “whoever runs this account, thank you.” Nothing reflects the success of the athlete-centered, athlete-led rebrand more than that statement. The movement starts here!