Professional Sport Rebranding
Why are they important and why do you need a good one?
Rebranding a sport team can seem like a daunting task, but the result when done correctly pays off. Strong branding can help create a unity within the fan base, it creates an identity since branding generates value for teams that fans can align with. Branding also produces a form of credibility or a trust within fans; a recognizable logo, tagline or symbol that they can recognize and resonate with.
After a two year process, the Brewers have completely redesigned their brand, including the logo, teams’ uniforms and fans merchandise. The recent change that was released mid-November, was created in order to occur simultaneously with the team’s 50th anniversary celebration. Fans responded well to the new but retro design of the uniforms and logo, based off of cash receipts which told the team what fans were looking to buy and wear. With the recent success of the Milwaukee Brewers rebrand, it prompted us to look deeper into what a rebrand truly means for a sports team.
A Successful Rebrand
After years of dissapointing seasons and a fan base that was barley hanging on, the Toronto Raptors were in desperate need of a change. The Raptors’ rebrand created a cult like following for fans in Canada and completely shaped the history of the team. We The North which was coined six years ago has become a staple of Canandian sport culture. According to a recent article on Vice.com, We The North “galvanize[d] the fan base, giving it a way to define its attitude and connect through a slogan”. The Head of Brand Marketing for Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, Dave Freeman, spoke on their strategy for the Raptors and their ultimate success. Freeman stated how his team “put together a four-year marketing plan that was going to re-brand the team and elevate the iconography: the logo, the uniforms, all of it”. The campaign quickly turned into a “ battle cry that celebrates Canada’s status as an outsider“. The campaign proved to be extremly successfuly when the team was sold out season tickets with 12,500 sold for the 14/15 season.
A Rebranding Fail
Bad rebrands can bring a teams’ fan base together, but not in a way that benefits the team. When the LA Chargers made their relocation from San Diego to Los Angeles, the team also decided that a rebranding was in order. The rebrand was torn apart online when many pointed out through memes that the new logo was almost an exact copy of the Dodgers ‘LA’ logo. Some even said it looked like they took the Dodgers logo and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s logo and merged it into one. Needless to say, fans were not on board with the new logo especially since it was changed three times within 36 hours of it’s release.
How Can You Prevent It?
How can you prevent a bad rebranding like the Chargers? When and if you decide to rebrand, communicate new rebrand across all channels and keep it consistent. When the Chargers rebranded and decided to change the color scheme and design of the rebrand within the first 36 hours of the release, fans weren’t the least bit excited. Consistency is everything, espically on platforms where the brand is displayed on like on Instagram and Facebook. The team’s profile picture and overall aesthitic should not differentiate on platforms, making sure that everything is completely updated is extremely important. Otherwise the brand looks inconsistent and fans won’t want to spend their time and money on something they can’t truly believe in. As much as we would like to say it’s all about the players or the actual game, consistently creating new fans and keep them long term has a lot to do with the branding, which must be one that fans can believe and trust. Dan Chandler who is the executive creative director for the agency that aided in the rebranding for the Toronto Raptors We The North said
“I think you always have to pay reverence, especially when it comes to sports teams and their heritage and history, but you also can’t become some sort of vintage or retro brand either. You’re a million miles from sports performance if you do that.”
How It Affects Ticket Sales?
If you keep in mind the past without moving too far from it in the future, while creating something new and unique for the fan base, you can create history. It’s a hard task rebranding something like a sports team that millions of people are watching and nitpicking every detail of. A bad rebranding can affect more than just the happiness of the fans, but also the teams’ revenue and ticket sales. This instance can be seen with one of our own clients at MA+A Sports, the University of South Florida.
According to a Creative Loafing article, USF’s rebrand was meant to “symbolize the school’s collective power and drive to shape the future”. It was an epic fail. Students, alumni and even USF fans spoke about how the new logo resembled te Merrill Lynch logo and disliked how unappealing the highlight yellow and forest green colors were designed. After a tremendous amount of backlash, the $200,000 marketing campaign was abandoned within 8 months of its release and a new logo was adopted from the USF Athletics department logo.