SFMA rebrand

Inside the Association Rebrand

By John Kmitta

The STMA announced its association rebrand to the Sports Field Management Association (SFMA) during a reveal ceremony at the association’s annual conference in Savannah, Ga. According to SFMA, the rebrand broadens the association’s scope to all who have job responsibilities on a field or within the industry.

“The rebrand of the association was a culmination of things that have happened over the last few years,” said SFMA President James Bergdoll, CSFM. “The industry has expanded and evolved, and there was a desire to change to stay relevant.”

Said SFMA Past President Nick McKenna, CSFM, “As a board of directors, we wanted to make sure we were representing our members, chapters, and our industry as best as possible, so that’s where we began by polling our membership and having conversations about a potential name change with our peer organizations and chapters. Once we determined that there was not strong opposition to a potential name change, we continued to have further conversations. Originally, we were just considering a name change; but as we got into the development process for our 10-year strategic plan, it became apparent that that timing and opportunity were right for a complete rebranding of the association.”

According to McKenna, the association’s new logo illustrates SFMA’s forward-thinking approach with vibrant colors and a modernized image designed to capture the essence of a field from a variety of sports. The tagline “Where the game begins,” captures the importance of what SFMA members provide. “Without a team of highly trained professionals to ensure sports fields are safe, healthy and aesthetically pleasing, the games we love to play and watch would not be what they are today,” said McKenna. “Everything truly begins with the field.”

Bergdoll added that inclusiveness was important with the new association brand, as many members felt the word “manager” was restrictive to those working at a higher level, while the term “management” encompasses everyone and the work being done at all levels.

“The expectations for sports fields and the people managing them will continue to grow and evolve, and we need to push that evolution and not be an afterthought,” he said. “To me, the new name is just the start of this.”

Added Bergdoll, “We, as an association, need to promote professionalism internally and externally. Part of that is referring to practitioners as sports field managers. It will take some time, but being intentional about the terminology we use to refer to ourselves is crucial in our promotion of professionals.”

Said SFMA President-Elect Sun Roesslein, CSFM, “My official title is sports stadium manager, but I have called myself a sports field manager for a long time when I’m explaining to someone what it is I do. There are a plethora of different titles in our industry, and just as many different responsibilities and job descriptions. Scientifically, we are turfgrass managers, understanding the science of plant pathology to weed management.

“The professional expertise is displayed in how we manage every aspect of the surfaces, the actual fields sports are played on,” Roesslein added. “That might include managing practice time, game schedules, equipment setup, events unrelated to sports like concerts, movie nights, camp outs or monster truck rallies that happen on the field and go beyond the scientific knowledge of turfgrass management. Understanding how to get those surfaces back to being a safe playing field for the athletes that the fields were initially built to serve is a large part of being a professional sports field manager. This wider picture of our member’s field management expertise was important to include and try to emphasize in the new name of our association.”

Added Bergdoll, “While natural grass, or turfgrass, is the preferred surface type by members, we also recognize our members are responsible for maintaining safe and playable fields of all surface types. Therefore, removing the word ‘turf’ and using ‘fields’ captures all surfaces.”

Also, according to SFMA, the term “turf” was confusing to many, who thus assumed the association was affiliated with, or tied to, synthetic surfaces. “The word ‘turf’ has become synonymous with the synthetic field industry and, unfortunately, that’s not a full representation of our association and its members,” said McKenna.

Despite the move away from the term “turf,” and advocating for properly built and maintained natural grass fields, Bergdoll pointed out that SFMA has a role in advocating for better education regarding synthetic turf maintenance and the development of safer synthetic surfaces.

“SFMA is dedicated to the safety of all playing surfaces, regardless of the type,” said Bergdoll. “We recognize that while most of our membership prefers natural grass fields, we also know the market size of synthetic turf is far reaching. For many years, synthetic fields have been marketed and sold on not needing maintenance or are low maintenance; in reality, we know that is not true. They actually require a good bit of maintenance to remain safe for users. We have a good relationship with the Synthetic Turf Council, which has helped spread our message of the importance of maintenance of synthetic turf. Continuing to develop the education and offering to members and beyond is still important.”

Said Roesslein, “As an association, a large part of our mission is to educate our members and give them the tools needed to advocate for the best playing surface for their particular situation. Then we provide the information needed to manage that playing surface with player safety and best management practices in the forefront of the maintenance plan.”

According to Roesslein, the rebrand is a more accurate depiction of what SFMA members do. “Sports fields can include natural grass, synthetic or hybrid surfaces, as well as a multitude of different sports played on them,” she said. “Many of our members are managing facilities that host multiple sports, and they need to be informed about what each sport requires.”

According to SFMA, looking ahead, many of the association’s chapters are considering aligning their chapter’s name with the SFMA brand to present a strong and unified industry.

“Ultimately the decision for chapters to rebrand and align with the national association is entirely up to them,” said McKenna. “While we would love for our branding and messaging to align with all chapters across the country, there are a lot of factors that go into those decisions and, therefore, they must be made on a chapter-by-chapter basis by their leadership groups.”

Added McKenna, “I believe this rebrand shows that, as an association, we are just like our members, adaptive and responsive. We are looking to the future and attempting to further build and grow the association along with industry as it grows and evolves.”

Said Bergdoll, “With this rebrand, we look to become a stronger and more inclusive community that represents, and is an advocate for, all of those who make up SFMA.”

John Kmitta is associate publisher and editorial brand director of SportsField Management magazine.