Edinburgh-based Brand Oath was founded by husband-and-wife team Bernie and Julie Shaw-Binns, who brought a design and financial background respectively.
The firm came about after he had worked in a previous role on Glasgow’s bid for the 2014 games. That “opened [his] eyes to the whole fascinating world of the sports sector”, he told The Scotsman.
The now-MD saw that it was “dynamic”, a subject that people understand and makes them passionate.
“We set Brand Oath up based on that love of sport,” he adds, with Julie holding the role of director. It describes itself as the only international sports branding agency in Scotland, with last year’s sales showing an 81 per cent year-on-year jump. It launched in 2011, specialising in helping global cities bid for major sporting events, and started out with Azerbaijan capital Baku for the 2020 Olympics, which led to further work. That includes a string of other Olympic bids, including Glasgow for this year’s Youth Olympic Games, as well as bids for Commonwealth Games, and Uefa Euros and the Inaugural European Games, both for Baku.
On average, 70 per cent of its work is from outside the UK, with clients in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
“It’s very high-pressured… no-fail, dealing with different cultures,” said Bernie Shaw-Binns.
He said bids are often successes even if they do not win, by significantly boosting the global profile of a location. One such example he cites was the Liverpool 2022 Commonwealth Games bid, which Brand Oath worked on, and he says the city benefited despite being beaten by Birmingham.
Bid projects have also exposed Brand Oath to other clients, such as government bodies and commercial sponsors. It became official design and branding partner to Scottish Athletics, for example, branding its offices in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and has worked with Scottish Women in Sport.
Brand Oath’s work is currently split equally between bids and non-bid work, with the latter helping diversify its revenues as it looks to scale. The likes of infrastructure and sports companies have been approaching it to help win commercial tenders unrelated to events.
And its work on Team Scotland saw it “set out to challenge the cliches around national identity, whilst delivering what international audiences expect of Scotland” and create a year-round brand. That is being showcased in the Gold Coast equivalent, scheduled to run until 15 April.
The firm has designed the Athletes’ Village in Australia, which includes artwork from an Aboriginal illustrator.
Next on the cards is boosting headcount, with a core of only about six to ten currently but reaching up to 20 at peaks.
Also on the horizon is opening another office. Europe is most likely, with Lausanne in Switzerland highlighted given its status as the capital of sport in the region. Brand Oath is currently visiting Lima, Peru, to assist with the 2019 Pan American Games.