Rebranding: Move Forward or be Left Behind

Anyway you slice it, rebranding can be extremely risky. This is true with any industry but more so in sport. Not only can it be expensive to execute a complete rebrand, but you run the risk of loyal fans not accepting the new position and that is when disaster strikes. But in sport, the only constant is change. This is why you need to evolve your brand on a continual basis and even rebrand when warranted. The Toronto Raptors took this risk and we are only beginning to see the positive results.

From their switch from purple to red, the cartoon dinosaur to the classy foot print. We are starting to see how the Toronto Raptors will attempt to rebrand themselves. With a short but exciting playoff run this season the team bumped up the release of the first part of its rebranding efforts by launching “We the North”, optimizing timing. This is not the end, we will continue to see this rebranding roll out over the next 14 months as the organization readies themselves for the 2016 NBA All Star Game.

This rebranding is about taking something that has been perceived as a negative to the team (the outsiders- as the only NBA team in Canada) to create a positive spin. The “We the North” campaign is not only about being Toronto’s team but also becoming Canada’s team. It is aimed at changing people’s mindsets about the city and country – which is traditionally seen as a hockey country. This branding took a 360 approach in market with in game fan engagement, a strong social media presence (#wethenorth), a loyal brand ambassador (Drake), and became very fan oriented (Jurassic Park as a viewing area).

It was obvious through the playoff run this year that the Raptors positioned themselves to allow fans to rally together to become the proud and passionate fan base that is seen for hockey in the city of Toronto.

In contrast to the Raptors who have gone through a significant rebranding of their logo, organization and brand story, Under Armour has launched a smaller scale rebranding. Most consumers associate the athletic gear with the tight fitting shirts that wick away large male football player’s sweat. But with its new “I Will What I Want” ads, Under Armour is clearly trying to rebrand itself as athletic gear that can empower female athletes, whether they’re playing soccer or taking a Pilates class.

One would have to question though, are these women not already turning to Lululemon and Nike for this type of sweat gear? But with over 4 million views on Under Armour’s Misty Copeland’s Youtube ad, it has clearly gone viral. With such a strong underlying message and their new consumers attention Under Armour has positioned themselves perfectly to rebrand and enable female athletes.

Although re-branding can be high risk in sport it is necessary to seize an opportunity as Under Armour has done with a new target group. Or be reactive to an event that is so significant that the existing brand must change, as the Raptors did with the competitive influences of sport in Toronto.

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