Manchester City’s very recent rebrand was received with the usual mix of outrage and indifference from fans in the last week.
The negative response was mostly attributed to the change from ‘MCFC’ to ‘Man City’ across digital and social channels, a furore which will die down quickly as the 2016/17 season begins to take shape.
Aston Villa’s recent rebrand, although more subtle, received a similar response, and was exacerbated by the current misfortunes at the club. With all of the conversation based around the loss of the word ‘Prepared’ from the logo and the addition of fiercer claws on the lion, nobody was asking what was behind the project and what the club was actually trying to achieve.
In reality, an updated logo makes zero material difference to the perception, engagement or commercial objectives of the club, and I’ve yet to see a logo reveal met with universal acclaim for the sheer quality of design thinking.
However, the updated crest bears the brunt of the criticism for what can be a highly effective initiative at any brand, not just a sports club like Man City.
So if the logo change is unimportant, why re-brand at all?
As clubs continue to grow into larger organisations, with multiple departments and channels of activity, a new brand identity and brand message can help align activity from ticket sales, through to merchandise sales, through to sponsorship and beyond.
A busy Commercial Director is dealing with a growing range of responsibility covering ticket sales, digital presence, licensing and sponsorship - a well thought out and executed rebrand can provide him/her with the tools to align their teams across all of the club's activity.
CHANGING AN ATTITUDE
Companies, organisations and clubs over time create their own culture, their own attitude, a collective way of talking to and with their peers. Asking someone, anyone, to change their attitude is rarely met with the desired response, so a re-brand can be used as the launchpad for changing the culture within an organisation and can improve how staff, customers and fans interact.
PEER-TO-PEER BRAND RELATIONSHIPS
Sponsors play a key role in the operation of clubs across all levels of sport. At the higher levels of sport, major sports sponsorships require the sponsor and sponsee to develop a very close strategic and operational relationship. In recent years we have seen certain rights holders emerge as the leaders within that relationship, and a vital part of that is operating on a peer-to-peer level when it comes to the management of a right’s holders own brand. It is reassuring for sponsors to see their partner develop and reinvigorate their brand with the same diligence and importance that would be placed on the process at a purely commercial brand.
WHY, WHEN AND HOW?
There are many and more reasons to undertake the re-branding process, and they are often linked to the specific circumstances of the particular club or sports organisation. With that said, an absolutely crucial element of any rebrand is how it is launched, how it is activated and how it is brought to life following the initial piece of work. That is where the success of the initiative is determined within the overall success of the club.
A key part of launching a re-brand is consideration of when and how that new brand can be re-launched. A new logo or crest is not a newsworthy event, therefore a re-branding club needs to consider how they deliver the new identity to their fans and their industry.
Top marks to Man City for connecting their re-brand with the unveiling of Pep Guardiola as their new Head Coach. With that move, Man City are presenting a bright new future to players, fans, sponsors and the general public.
Players, staff and fans often need a trigger for changing their ways or moving in a slightly new direction, a well-thought out and activated re-brand can be that trigger.