• Revamp, Restart, Reboot! Why Changing a Franchise or Team Brand Destroys It

    The Super bowl is over and it’s now the off-season, which means many sport entities will be publishing boring articles for the football world until draft day. But not us! We’re going to review teams and franchises who have had to revamp, restart, or reboot their brand, due to tensions or not, and we’re also going to look at teams being told they should change their brand. That means we will be visiting the UAB football team and, not trying to beat a dead horse like many other outlets, we will be looking at the Washington Redskins.

    In December of 2014, the UAB football program was closed down and disbanded. Fast forward to June 2015 and it was back on, but not one snap was taken during the 2015 season, as the team had been shut down. The reason for closing? The football program was said to be losing money and not making a profit. The ironic part? The UAB football program has already raised over $15 million towards restarting the program. Granted, most Div 1A football teams lose money, but in the end, everything works out because of TV contracts and subsidies. So realistically, the UAB football team has lost more than gaining anything. By being shut down for a season, the program gained no money and likely had a difficult time recruiting too. Whereas, if the program had stayed open, they likely would have broken even financially, gained the exposure needed for recruiting, and possibly seen some of the $15 million that has been donated to them. Hopefully, UAB doesn’t fall apart like SMU did after the death penalty was lifted.

    If you’ve been living under a rock, then let me enlighten you quickly on the subject known as the Washington Redskins. Some people find the name Washington Redskins to be offensive and want it changed. While I’m not going to argue for or against the name change, it is important to view their stance from a business standpoint. Let’s jump in!

    Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, purchased the franchise in 1999 for $750 million. According to a Forbes report, the franchise made $439 million in revenue for the 2015 season. The Forbes report also has the Washington Redskins as the third most valuable team in the NFL, while they (and other outlets) value the franchise at $2.8 billion. The franchise obviously brings in money, especially to be ranked number three on the NFL value team list, but if the Washington Redskins were forced to change their name, logo and brand, it would dent their bank heavily. The franchise would have to buy new helmets, new jerseys, remodel the field and facilities, have their goods taken off the market, and if there’s enough of an uproar, reimburse or trade fans who have the Washington Redskins jerseys. That sounds hard to believe, but when Aaron Hernandez landed in trouble, the New England Patriots offered jersey swaps for their fans. If this was to happen, the Washington Redskins would be pulling their brand off the market, which is their identity. That’s why, from a financial standpoint, it is a horrible idea for the Washington Redskins to revamp their look, and no, I’m not defending or condoning their current brand. I have heard the argument that teams relocating go through the same change, but this is different. For a relocating team, they have the perk of adding new fans with their old fan base, while a team that must restart their brand does not have that opportunity. If anything fans may feel estranged, since the team changed their brand – and identity – and go root for a different team.

    The situation which the Washington Redskins are in is something other teams have faced before, just not at a professional tier. Miami University in Ohio was once called the Redskins, but after tensions in the 1990s, the university changed the name to the RedHawks, which is the name some want the Washington Redskins to change to. This name and brand change, Redskins to RedHawks, also happened recently in 2014 with a high school located in the state of Washington.

    At the collegiate and high school level, teams that switch names and brands face the costs of getting new helmets, new jerseys, and so on. In fact, it’s even harder at the collegiate and high school level, since they generate little to no profit; something like this could end multiple sport teams at these two levels. Colleges and high schools that make the switch also face a greater problem because they risk losing boosters and sponsors. Sure, the Washington Redskins may upset their sponsors by changing their name and brand, but more than likely, their sponsors would remain, since the franchise is a professional team at the national level. But, boosters or sponsors for a college or high school are more likely to leave, and it all comes down one word: alienation. You see, most boosters and sponsors at the college and high school level are former graduates or alumni; if they feel alienated from the program because of a name and brand change, they may not be so kind afterwards.

    Revamp, restart, reboot. It’s a tiptoeing problem that every team and franchise probably wants to avoid, but that’s not always the case. Whether it’s due to tensions or just happens, having to rebuild and redesign the brand of a team or franchise can destroy it from a financial standpoint. To some extent, at the professional level, it is easier to survive, since revenue is brought in by the bulk; at the collegiate and high school level, it can be trickier since they must avoid alienating the hand that feeds them. At the end of the day, whether a team or franchise decides to switch their brand or not, it all comes down to one reason: that reason is money.

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