Thursday, January 12, 2017

THE CHARGERS BRAND WAGON

THE CHARGERS ARE BOLTING
They say no one ever wins in divorce (except perhaps the attorneys.)  When a sports team leaves a city it’s called home for 50+ years, you can expect some bad feelings.  But from a marketing perspective, the Chargers organization needs to call the right plays to try to make the best of a new situation.  While you may or may not appreciate the way the Spanos organization runs the team, as someone who has created award-winning marketing and branding for leagues, teams, players and sports properties I can surely lend some insight to how they should proceed with the positioning of their product going forward.

SHOW SPORTSMANSHIP
So far, the Chargers organization appears to have done everything wrong (and I’m not just talking about on-the-field performance) beginning with the instant alienation of the San Diego community.  While the Los Angeles market is a huge demographic and certainly has the numbers to support multiple NFL teams, attempting to keep any loyal San Diego, Orange County, and Inland Empire fans should still be a priority.  They say it takes 4x as much to secure a new customer as it does to retain one and the Bolts should do everything possible to engage those fans willing to jump on team-sponsored caravan buses up the 405.  Even if 20% of the fans carry over, it’s a great base to start with.   Because unlike other past NFL team moves (Browns to Baltimore, Rams to St. Louis, etc.) current Chargers fans are still a viable target market based on proximity.
But swapping to “Los Angeles” and flaunting “LA” on all their social media is like bringing your new girlfriend to the aforementioned divorce hearings.  Embracing all of Southern California is a much better approach and highlighting CHARGERS versus LOS ANGELES is a simple branding direction that at least attempts to create inclusion.

Here's the official statement from the Chargers on, well... bolting.

Remember, there is a rivalry between the two towns between the Dodgers vs Padres and the old LA Raiders vs Chargers (although Dodgers fans claim the SF Giants as their primary foe), so the only thing worse than losing your team is having them relocate to your rival town.  And the OC has had it's share of "LA slighting" with the whole "California turned Anaheim Angeles turned Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim now Los Angeles Angels" thing.  Note: just as I'm suggesting, they wisely limited backlash by focusing on the Angels' "A" logo versus the city name.
 
LOOK THE PART
On the subject of branding, coming into a market as the clear “second team” is hard enough (maybe even the third best pro team if you add USC).  Now, from Day 1, the Bolts have already made it worse with the unveiling of their “me too” LA logo.

Unfortunately, the interlocking “LA” looks like they spent 10 minutes editing the Los Angeles Dodgers’ logo.  The first impression of the Dodgers and Tampa Bay Lightning logos' love child doesn’t appear to have the cleaver, professional look that the NFL has become accustomed to with dynamic branding and marks.  To be blunt, the simple LA-with-a-bolt-emphasis just looks bad. And somehow it has managed to single-handedly upsets THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE by insulting A) current Los Angeles sports fans with a flimsy attempt to side with them via their beloved LA symbol, and B) any San Diegans willing to still support the team, for obvious reasons. 
The NFL is known for the "uniform police" who make sure the players wear their uni's properly so I can only imagine that the league has to be throwing the red challenge flag over this LAme logo.

All OUT BLITZ
If the Bolts strategy is to cut-the-cord 100% and loyal fan base be damned, then they should do it.  With rumors that they will eventually rebrand, a la the Tennessee Titans from the Oilers, and change the name, it’s best to “rip the band aid off” and do the rename at the same time as the relocation.  Start completely fresh, not in waves.  This whole make-shift unveiling adds to the appearance of a knee-jerk reaction when we all know they have been strategically exploring this move for years.

FUTURE GAME PLAN
Winning cures all.  Southern Californians are a fickle bunch and unless the team is doing well on the turf, the team can’t expect to fill the seats.  With all the hype, excitement and years of loyal Ram fans awaiting their team’s return, the team was still only one of two NFL teams with under 90% capacity.   Now, adding a second team with an extremely limited tie to the market (the Chargers did start off as the Los Angeles Chargers after all) they have an up-field battle ahead of them.  If the LA Chargers (Or LA Traffic, LA Paparazzi, LA Smog, or whatever they eventually become) wants to be successful and evoke the passion that the team had during their lone Super Bowl run, they need to perform on the field.  With better marketing, branding, and creating an inclusive environment for shunned San Diegans, the Chargers can make the best of a tumultuous situation.
Or just go sign Antonio Brown, Aaron Rogers, OBJ, Luke Kuechly, JJ Watt and Ezekiel Elliott and bring the Lombardi home… to LA.

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