U.S. Equestrian recently unveiled a complete rebranding as part of a strategic plan to grow its membership and broaden its appeal. The national governing body for equestrian sports has undergone several name changes since its inception in 1917. More recently, it went from being known as the United States Equestrian Federation to simply U.S. Equestrian, with a new logo, a more user-friendly website and additional membership benefits to bolster its refreshed identity.
A fresh look. One of the first items on the agenda was to reimagine the logo. “The design elements were there, they just needed to be repositioned,” said Vicki Lowell, the group’s chief marketing and content officer, who took the rebranding opportunity by the reins. The old logo featured an image of a horse within a shield with “USEF” at the top and “United States Equestrian Federation” circling the horse. Lowell saw a need for simplification. “I said, ‘OK, let’s deconstruct this thing. We need to free the horse so that it is front and center.’”
The inspiration for the name change also came from a need to put the organization’s mission and status at the forefront. “The United States Equestrian Federation was a mouthful,” Lowell said. Dropping that word and abbreviating “United States” better aligns the group with other national governing bodies that compete at the Olympic level, she said.
New benefits. Appealing to people of all ages was important to USEF, which was concerned not only about a membership that skews a bit older, but also about being perceived as an elitist sport, Lowell said. In concert with the rebrand, U.S. Equestrian launched the Joy of Horse Sports campaign, designed to capture the emotion of participating in horse sports at all levels. “What is so wonderful about this sport is the insight that drives people at the top is the same insight that drives people who first encounter a horse—the unique connection between horse and human,” Lowell said.
U.S. Equestrian also made an effort to connect with a younger age group, offering youth, scholastic and collegiate organizations complimentary educational memberships in hopes of piquing their interest and retaining them for the future. The NGB also introduced a $25 fan membership (the full membership rate is $55), ideal for enthusiasts who may not currently be competing but wish to take part in all of the governing body’s benefits. These benefits include a new weekly newsletter, access to the USEF Network, delivery of the group’s quarterly magazine (which also received a new look) and access to the online U.S. Equestrian Learning Center, which features educational videos aimed at members of all skill levels. “The content aspect is a whole new dimension to the brand,” Lowell said. “We really are looking to expand the learning platform of the membership.”
Into the fold. Although U.S. Equestrian’s membership wasn’t drastically declining, it wasn’t growing either. But since the NGB began actively recruiting new members, it has already seen a rise in numbers. Since last fall, its membership has grown from about 80,000 members to about 100,000 members. “That’s our mission—bringing the joy of horse sports to as many people as possible,” Lowell said. “I hope that this new identity conveys the joy of horse sports.”