You’re probably interested in the sport of barbecue because you love to cook outdoors, not because you love marketing. But branding your competition BBQ team is as important as choosing the right meat.
If you play this game right, your name is going to be called over and over. You want to strut to that stage with a name you can be proud of. You want sponsors lining up to support your rad team.
Coming up with your team name can be fun. A lot of people choose to do a play on words related to meat, smoke, cue, etc., but if you’re hoping to get a beef sponsor, you might not want to trap yourself to a pig name and vice versa – just something to consider.
A good place to get inspiration is the KCBS list of teams. You’ll get all sorts of ideas here. This will also help you discover if your idea for a team name has already been taken. If you plan to join KCBS, you’ll have to pick a unique name.
Take your time selecting the right name, because it’ll stick with you, and you’ll spend a few bucks to brand your setup.
Start with Social Media
Before you register your team name, see if the social media channels are available.
This might not seem like a big deal now, but once your team gets more well known, people are going to want to follow you on social media. It’s better to secure all of your handles now, before it’s too late, or before you find out that someone else is using it.
It’s really, really important that your social media handles on instagram, facebook, twitter and YouTube are all the same. I can’t stress this enough. Having different names on different platforms is confusing for people who want to follow you.
So far, this branding step is free, but you may want to have a website someday, so I recommend checking to see if the URL is available, too.
The best tool I’ve found for searching for social and website names all at once is KnowEm.com.
If your name isn’t available, choose a different name.
Developing a Logo
Making your team name look really cool with a graphic is a little challenging, unless you have some graphic design skills. I recommend hiring a professional for this step.
There are a lot of websites that will create a logo for you for less than $100, but personally, I don’t find them all that original. They usually throw your name on the page with a flame or grill or tongs.
If you want something more creative and you like the cartoon animal look, a lot of teams use BBQLogos.com. I believe he charges $75-$150.
If you really plan to make a business out of barbecue, including selling a line of rubs and sauces, you may want to consider hiring a local ad agency. Your costs will go up significantly, but in the end, you’ll have something unique created for your BBQ future.
If money is tight, reach out to a university graphic design program. You might be able to find a student who can create something for you for free.
Brand Your Cook Site with a Banner
You already know you’re going to have a table to do your prep, so I recommend buying a banner as your next branding tool.
Most people use 6-foot plastic tables, so the 2.5′ x 6′ banner from Vistaprint works great. I always order the vinyl version made for the outdoors, and I add the grommets and reinforcement. They usually run about $80, but wait for a sale. They offer 50% off all the time.
You don’t need any fancy design skills either. Their site includes some templates to make it easy. Just add your team name and that great new logo that you should have by now.
Since you’ve setup your social channels, be sure to put the social media icons on your banner, so people can start following you.
Once your banner arrives, hold the top of it up against the table edge. Drill holes in the edge of the table right where the grommets are. Then, you can secure the banner with some bolts when it comes time for competition day.
Moving on up
You’ll find early on that you will definitely want some shade when you’re cooking at competitions. As you are ready to really invest in your brand, you can add your brand name to a pop-up tent or trailer.
A branded tent with walls will run you a few hundred dollars, while a trailer will obviously cost you significantly more.
If you go with a tent, I strongly recommend that you stick with white or black. I bought an orange tent, because it was my main team color. I found that whenever I took pictures of my turn-in boxes they looked horrible, because the orange hue discolored everything.
Share Your Brand
In the beginning, your close friends and family will want to support your team by wearing a team T-shirt or hat. Once you grow, people you’ve never met will want to sport your team name.
I recommend starting with stickers. Everyone loves a good sticker swap. I used some off brand for my first set of stickers, and they dissolved in the rain and sun in no time.
For my next batch, I used Sticker Mule. Their quality is really good, and they have great sales every now and then. They also sell magnets, which are a little pricier, but fun for those who don’t want to commit to adding a permanent sticker.
I’m not at a point where I’m giving away or selling hats or T-shirts yet, but I have had team shirts for quite a while. I started with Lands End. They’ll create an embroidered logo for you, and then you can add it to any of their high-quality clothes.
Since Lands End’s products are a little more business casual, my teammates requested something a little cooler. I recently hired Tyler from Wicked Grafixx to design some new crew shirts for me. He usually creates shirts for drag race crews, but he rocked my design and is happy to do more BBQ work.
There are so many more things you can smack your brand on, including your body, if you want to go as far as getting a tattoo. Just be consistent and promote yourself and your team for the bad ass barbecuer that you are.