This is the third and final installment of the Logo Redesign in Sports Marketing series. Part one covered what re-branding a sports team entails. Part two delved into how much it costs and who really pays. This segment is about the impact that re-branding can have on the fans and, ultimately, the team’s profitability.
A team’s logo is a way for fans to instantly identify and connect with their team, so choosing to redesign a logo can be a big risk for the franchise. The general idea behind re-branding is to re-spark the interest of a weaning fan base and possibly reach a new audience by refreshing the team’s image. The easiest way to refresh the image is to refresh the logo. In the best-case scenario, fans receive the change with excitement and as a sign of good things to come. However, this is not always the case.
First, it should be noted that in sports marketing there is a difference between fans and customers. A customer might have a favorite grocery store, but if there is a better sale at the store across the street, the customer has no qualms about crossing over for the better deal. And if one day the stores’s staff is no longer as friendly as it used to be or shopping there is no longer convenient, a customer will simply find a new store.
Being a sports fan implies loyalty. Short for fanatic, the word fan suggests more than a mere spectator, but a devoted individual that is emotionally invested in the team’s successes and failures. A customer will buy the product. A fan will cheer, heckle, defend, maybe even cry for their team. It’s a matter of identity. They don’t say, “I watch the Red Sox.” They say, ” I am a Red Sox fan.” But in order to get there, the viewer needs to feel connected to that team. This is what team branding does and why it’s so important. It can mean the difference between a customer and a fan.
Sometimes a team needs to switch things up to show their fans that they are growing alongside them and are not afraid of the future. And many times a makeover can do just that, but change is not always welcomed.
So what happens when the re-branding goes haywire and the fans aren’t happy with the changes? Well, the franchise could lose any bandwagon riders, as well as tick off the faithful traditionalists, as it is proving to be the case with the Miami Marlins. This can weaken a team’s profitability even further. Sometimes a refresh can have a team refreshed off the map.
It seems the Washington Redskins agree. The Redskins have been under criticism for years for being accused of having a racist name and logo and refusing to change them; however, they do not seem willing to risk their 80-year old franchise. Despite the criticism, petitions from US Senators, and the fact that they ranked only 13th in the league (just above average) at the start of the 2013 season, the team still remains the third-most valuable franchise in the NFL (at $1.6 billion). Not too bad, huh? These profits certainly don’t incentivize the Redskins to take any chances and who can blame them?
So, what have we learned through this series? The best way to go about re-branding a sports team seems to be to take it one step at a time. Instead of changing the logo drastically and all at once, teams should start with small changes that leave the logo appearing refreshed, while still recognizable (like the Jacksonville Jaguars, who we featured in part 1). Implementing the changes gradually to help ease the fans into the new brand will yield the highest odds of success.