It happens every spring, the Houston Astros come up with a slogan intended to rally the fans and get the town excited about baseball again. Some examples from recent years: “We Are Your Astros” (2011), “Root. Root. Root. (2012), “Earn History” (2017), “Never Settle” (2018), and “Take It Back” (2019).
For 2020, this year of redemption, the Astros want everybody to know they’re doing it “For the H.” The Astros want “For the H” to be as ubiquitous as “Keep America Great” or “Not me. Us” (maybe) or “Mike Gets It Done” (pending) and stick around just as long. That would be World Series time in November.
The Astros didn’t go with the first light bulb that popped over a mid-level manager’s head. Here’s all the staff meetings, focus groups, and running up the flagpole that go into the team slogan — from first brainstorm to the sign outside Minute Maid Park — courtesy of Anita Sehgal, Astros senior vice president of marketing and communications.
CultureMap: How long ago did you start thinking up the campaign slogan for 2020?
Anita Sehgal: We started in November — shortly after the World Series. We have used ‘For the H’ on and off within other campaigns and this year felt right to elevate it and develop a campaign around it.
CM: How important to the Astros is a good slogan that connects with fans and the community?
AS: Incredibly important. Our campaign every year is intended to provide a rallying cry for our fans, players and the community. We want our fans to have a true emotional connection with our team. It is also important that we look at a fully integrated campaign – not just a slogan. Our marketing team wants to ensure our theme is more than just words.
CM: What is the process? How many steps up the corporate ladder before owner Jim Crane gives a thumbs up?
AS: The marketing team leads the process for campaign development. We anchor our process in fan insight. We take our inspiration from how our fans, players, and influencers speak about why they love the Astros and what they look forward to. The team develops mood boards, tagline options and a few design options for consideration.
The team also spends a lot of time developing creative and content ideas on how the campaign will come to life and sustain itself for a full season. It is a collaborative process among many departments within marketing. We generally go through a few iterations until ultimately I sign off and share with our entire executive team, including Jim. Once our executive team has had input, we finalize the campaign and prep it for launch.
CM: How long between first thought to the final okay?
AS: Our campaign process generally takes about two months.
CM: Was the slogan devised in-house or did the Astros go to Madison Avenue for a slogan specialist?
AS: We have an unbelievably talented marketing department in-house that takes this task on every year.
CM: It’s unusual that our XFL team, the Roughnecks, also is using “For the H” as its slogan. Are the Astros okay with that? Who came first? Was it done in collaboration?
AS: We are unaware of how the XFL team developed their marketing campaign or when. But we are excited for this new franchise and hope they will receive some halo benefit from our efforts. The respective teams did not collaborate. In fact, neither team was aware of each other’s slogan. Our team saw an Instagram post with the hashtag, and then saw them launch a video the day after Super Bowl.
We contacted them to give them a heads up that our campaign was launching the following day and we shared a tagline. Our seasons have limited overlap so hopefully the collective use will help each other. Once we saw the lock-up introduced, we connected with them to give them a heads up that we had developed a full campaign around ‘For the H’ that would be getting released to the public. We couldn’t be happier there is collective agreement amongst teams in Houston that their focus and who they play so passionately for is the city they love.
CM: Of the past slogans, which do you think was the most successful? I think ‘Take it Back’ hit the bull's-eye last year because it has a few different meanings, all of which dealt with the Astros striving to return the World Series trophy to Houston.
AS: We love all of our campaigns. To us, a campaign is bigger than just the tagline that is used. What we are most proud of is that each season our campaign seems to fit the heart of our team and our fans.
CM: Will we see ‘For the H’ on the stadium wall, on T-shirts, everywhere? Can we assume you won’t be keeping the slogan a secret?
AS: You can look forward to seeing ‘For the H’ in many different places within and outside the stadium, on retail items, and across a multitude of great content.