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Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Why a Re-brand is rarely the answer

Today sees the likely return of the London Broncos to the sporting landscape.  For those in the dark - they are the latest rebirth of the London rugby league professional team - a team that has struggled for years to gain a foothold in the London sporting landscape.  Originally set up in 1990’s (from prior name) - they morphed into Harlequins RL in early 2000s. (NOTE - my resume contains work for both the Broncos, and the Harlequins - so I have more interest than most).
Without dwelling on the detail of this example - what this does highlight for me is “over” focus placed on a Re-brand.  I have seen quotes saying that the support want “London” in the title, that there is a connection to the Broncos brand, that the Harlequins brand could not connect with Rugby LEague folk.
A brand is far more than a name or a logo.  A company’s brand should be everything that the franchise is about.  A brand is who you are - your logo is your name badge.  (For more passionate detail on this - see an earlier blog).

And without knowing more about the detail about today’s news for the Quins/Broncos - it seems that far too much stock is being placed in changing the club’s name.
What is needed for a franchise to make a significant impact on a tough market is more, much more than a name - 
  • Stability - let people get used to what you are doing.  Show people you are committed.  Show people that though you don’t have much of a past, you are committed to the future.  (i.e. don’t change when things get tough)
  • Financial stability - the root of all stable businesses - the business model has to work.  Throwing money after a dream (based round a new name or any other minor business strand - headline player / tough talking coach etc) is not going to work.  You need a prudent plan for growth (supported by some fantasy thinking/spending if you want).
  • Promotional Stability - know what you are selling, know who you are selling to.  Grow the numbers (tough to do if you keep changing the message) and work harder than the next person to deliver your goals.  There are a few simple rules to follow (CRM being one) - but after that - it’s just about busting your b***s.  Get yourself organized - and keep working hard.  Invigorate the local community with consistent messages, excite the Press with your plan, don’t confuse the marketplace by changing your ideas/actions too often.
Changing the brand rarely works - much as changing a manager rarely delivers long term success - unless it is part of a wider plan to get the franchise on the right track.
The three core factors for sporting franchise success are Plan (come up with a good - and relevant - one), People (make sure you have good ones doing the right thing) and PUSH (push, push, push - harder and harder, further and further - you will achieve success). 
The sad part about the failure of the Harlequins Rugby LEague venture was that the first two strands above - Stability and Financial Stability were in place (or certainly more so than at any time in the franchise’s history).  From the outside looking in (I have zero contact or knowledge of activity at the club in recent years) - it appears that no real progress was made in promoting the Quins.  And now with another ground move rumored - it seems that the London Rugby League team really will be starting again.
I wish them luck.

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