Organizational Branding in the NFL and Why the Rams Aren’t Changing.

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Los Angeles, California: The City of Stolen Teams. Photo by Jhezie Lim.

Just two weeks ago, the St. Louis Rams franchise announced it was moving back to Los Angeles in 2016, ending a rollercoaster relationship with the city it called home for the last 20 years. In the days following the announcement, the organization also released its sweet brand new logo (hint, it’s exactly the same as before save for the city name.) effectively killing the sliver of hope I had for at least a tweak to the brand.

Franchises changing cities and keeping the brand of its organization the same is nothing new in the modern world of sports. Albeit brief and exaggerate, this clip from the movie BASEketball starring Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park and The Book of Mormon fame) touches on some of the head scratching scenarios raised by relocation without brand refreshment.

Organizations choose to keep their identities consistent through relocation as a way to maintain the connections they are leaving behind while also establishing new ones. In other words, they stay the same to maximize profit. For instance, the Oakland Raiders spent a short 12 years in Los Angeles from 1982-1994. With the help of a notorious hip-hop collective, the Raiders quickly established lasting relationships with Los Angelenos. When the team moved back to Oakland in 1995, nothing changed with the brand and Los Angeles continued to support the Raiders. As a study conducted by Facebook in 2014 shows, the Raiders remain the top fan base in Los Angeles County despite the team moving over 20 years ago. Contrast that against the abysmal Seattle Supersonics turned Oklahoma City Thunder fiasco where there lies no dominant support for the Thunderin Washington. Outside of Kevin Durant, nothing remains from the team the Seattle community cherished for 41 years and as a result, lost fans found other teams to support instead.

The Rams situation is very similar to the ’90s Raiders in that the franchise is heading back to the city it spent 48 of its first 60 years of existence before it vacationed in St. Louis for 20 years. The decision to keep the Rams brand consistent was a no brainer in this scenario. It doesn’t have to sweat about connecting with the area as it already established a dedicated following in the almost five decades it spent in Los Angeles. The Rams will find success in its long-lost new-but-old-to-be home of Los Angeles and it will continue to find some support in St. Louis as there will always be “Rams” fans there. In the meantime, Rams fans can buy a bunch of great vintage apparel from the team shop for low prices!

 

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