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Why You Don’t See “Trust the Process” in the Sixer’s Gift Shop
The complicated branding backstory behind one of the NBA’s best slogans.
There’s a lot of branding advice out there, but most of it misses a fundamental point.
Your brand isn’t your logo, your ad copy, or your press release boilerplate – it’s however people perceive and identify your business.
See, for instance, the Philadelphia 76ers. They have one of the NBA’s best marketing departments and social media teams. And yet, the one thing everyone identifies the Sixers with right now isn’t owned by the franchise.
It all dates back to a single sentence in 2013.
“We talk a lot about process, not outcome,” said then-new Sixers General Manager Sam Hinkie at his first press conference.
As any casual Philly sports fan knows, Hinkie’s process meant losing in the short-term to increase the team’s long-term championship potential.
It was controversial, but resonated with certain fans, in particular the city’s only Sixers podcast, Rights To Ricky Sanchez. Borrowing an obscure quote from a Sixers player, they started imploring fans to “Trust The Process.” They built a cult following through social media and events.
When Joel Embiid noticed this chatter on Twitter, the young star started repeating it, propelling it into the mainstream. He’s even nicknamed “The Process.”
Today, “you would be hard-pressed to find a mantra throughout sports history that is more synonymous with a team’s culture and identity than ‘Trust the Process’ is to the Philadelphia 76ers,” writes Max Rappaport, an editor at the Sixers blog Liberty Ballers.
Nevertheless, because Hinkie inspired “The Process,” and left on sour terms in 2016, the organization never officially uses the term. It’s not in their social media posts, or on T-shirts in their gift shop.