How and Why a Large, Well-Known Organization Rebranded

Although Big Brothers Big Sisters is more recognizable and has a longer history than most associations, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t grapple with similar issues, such as volunteer recruitment. Using bolder and more modern messaging and branding, it hopes to bring in new mentors.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a well-known, well-respected mentoring organization with more than 250 local agencies across the United States. But BBBS also has more than 33,000 youth (“Littles”) on a waiting list for a Big Sister or Big Brother.

As the organization’s leadership talked to the agencies and other stakeholders, “Something that kept coming up was that our brand needed to be updated, and that, overall, our agencies would be more successful in attracting volunteers—especially men, and especially men of color, which is a large need for us—if we rebranded to be bolder and more modern,” said Adam Vasallo, vice president of development and marketing.

So BBBS overhauled its logo and messaging late last year. The old logo depicted purple figures of a Big and a Little, which some said represented only a young child and not young adult Littles. The new logo has a black background and displays a capital B, with the lowercase b shape in white, representing the Little, and the top part of the B in green, representing the Big’s support. It aims to better appeal to men and volunteers from all generations.

Vasallo noted that although the organization is 115 years old, it has gone through only a few logos. “It’s been about 20 years since we’ve had a brand refresh, and with this one, we kind of went all in,” he said. The new messaging uses the line “Together, we are defenders of potential,” which shifts the focus from the mentors to the youth and conveys the urgency of getting mentors to defend this potential.

The new messaging also communicates that mentors “don’t have to have superhuman powers. We really feel like they’re ‘life qualified,’” Vasallo said. “We know that this potential is inherent in every child. Our Bigs don’t need to feel like they have to put that potential in the child—they just have to defend it.” The organization has done a good job of talking about the benefits of mentorship over the years, “but now we need everybody to understand that it’s a job that I can do and you can do—you’re qualified by just being present and being a caring person,” he said.

As youth face challenges such as violence and bullying, “there are 8.5 million youth in the country that currently don’t have adult to turn to,” Vasallo said. So the rebrand stresses “the importance of having a supportive individual in their corner to make a difference.”

The new language “has allowed us to be more authoritative when we talk about ourselves as being the leaders” and the top mentoring agency, Vasallo said. And this helps with fundraising too.

“Just as important as recruiting volunteers is raising funds,” particularly to support a vital function in the organization: its professional match support managers in each local agency. These front-line employees match Bigs with Littles and issue reports on progress, through a youth outcome survey that measures long-term outcomes, such as whether the Little is going to finish school, partake in risky behaviors, go to college, and build healthy relationships.

As part of the process, BBBS also implemented its first digital asset-management platformthat allows all the agencies to access and customize the rebranded collateral. Because the agencies vary in size and staff, “it was a complete game changer,” Vasallo said. Local staff numbers vary from three to more than 100, and some agencies serve 100 kids, while others serve more than 1,000. Now, the national office can better provide marketing services to all the agencies and ensure consistency.

In addition, the organization has shared the new branding with its corporate partners, and “it’s been exciting to share the new branding with them and talk about defenders of potential,” Vasallo said. “It’s a big advancement for our organization to use such bold, empowering language,” but all the partners have embraced it.

“Our ultimate goal is to make sure that more youth are able to be matched with a mentor who can empower them to reach their full potential,” Vasallo said.

A sample of the updated Big Brothers Big Sisters branding. (Handout photo)

Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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