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When Properties Rebrand, Sponsors Take Notice

When Properties Rebrand, Sponsors Take Notice

4 minute

  • Properties may invest in branding / rebranding themselves in order to articulate a new brand narrative to the marketplace (fans, consumers) as a result of a new strategic direction or to signify a new era
  • How properties brand themselves organically can help attract new partners and shape future sponsorship activations
  • CFL, Toronto Raptors, and Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman are all Canadian properties who have seen their branded identities materialize into sponsor activities

When properties invest in their own brand, they have the potential to offer new and differentiated benefits to their sponsors. More than changing a logo, a rebrand or new marketing campaign can bring about a change in culture or increase a property’s value. By carefully selecting the words, images and behaviors in which a property exhibits, property driven marketing can create a strong and positive identity which is beneficial to sponsors. 

Benefits of Property Driven Rebrand

Drive Awareness of the Property- A property driven marketing campaign can lead to more attention from consumers, increasing their awareness and fan base. Sponsors will then notice the increased following which would make the property more attractive in the sponsor’s eyes.

Provide Sponsors with New Themes to Leverage in Activations- A rebranded property or one with a new marketing campaign can also provide sponsors with new themes and storylines to use in their activations. Sponsors can tie their marketing around the property in with the new campaigns to create a cohesive sponsorship.

Create a Rallying Cry for a Property’s Fan Base- Sports teams go through cycles of winning and losing but branding can help speak to a culture surrounding a team that can transcend team performance. A well thought out rebrand can help provide fans of the team a rallying cry.

MKTG will examine case studies on when this occurred from the perspective of a team, league, and athlete as well as studying the resulting sponsor activity.

League – CFL and What We’re Made Of

In a 2014 poll by Angus Reid, it was discovered that 65% of Canadians aged 18-34 would rather watch the Super Bowl than the Grey Cup. Conversely, 61% of Canadians over the age of 55 would rather watch the Grey Cup than the Super Bowl. With this in mind, the CFL recently underwent a rebrand in order to speak to a younger audience. When new CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge unveiled a complete league rebrand last year which included a new slogan, “What We’re Made Of”, Orridge stated that this was done in an effort to attract a younger fan base. The rebrand was also leveraged by new league apparel partner, adidas. When adidas unveiled their merchandise for the CFL season, they produced the “What We’re Made Of” collection, which tied into the newly branded league. Like most apparel brands, the goal for adidas is to inspire youth to wear their brand at a young age and throughout adulthood. By making an overt effort to attract a younger audience, the CFL’s partnership with adidas not only meant new uniforms, but also created a platform for sponsor adidas to reach a younger demographic – finding synergy thanks in part to the CFL’s rebranding efforts. 

Team - Toronto Raptors and #WeTheNorth

Despite a strong and dedicated fan base, the Toronto Raptors were a franchise that suffered through disappointing on-court performances. From 2008 to 2013, the Raptors endured five-straight losing seasons. However, in 2014, ahead of their first playoff appearance in five years, the Raptors unveiled three simple words which soon resonated throughout arenas, bars, and basements across Canada – We The North. Through their marketing investment, the Raptors created a new identity and slogan to rally around. ‘We The North’ was above all a change in attitude - embracing the things that always seemed as if they were negatives – creating an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality. In addition to fans, sponsors were also able to rally around the new branding in their activations. In conjunction with the Raptors, Sport Chek began the My North campaign. The campaign highlighted different neighbourhoods in the Greater Toronto Area, and their basketball culture. The feel of the campaign was intentionally created to be an extension of the #WeTheNorth campaign, something that couldn’t be done unless the Toronto Raptors invested in the initial rebrand. In addition to Sport Chek, other Raptors sponsors leveraged #WeTheNorth by tweeting their support for the team during playoff runs. With a new brand and new perception, the Raptors were able to engage with sponsors and work to create integrated sponsored campaigns. 

Athlete – Marcus Stroman and #HDMH

In addition to a league or team investing in their own marketing to attract sponsors - an athlete can do the same. This is why, in some instances, an athlete’s catchphrase or nickname can be the initiating factor which leads to personal brand growth. This was the case with Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman. At 5’ 8”, Stroman is noticeably shorter than most pitchers. Due to his shorter than average height, Stroman started using the phrase “Height Doesn`t Measure Heart,” or #HDMH. As Stroman become a more prominent pitcher in Major League Baseball, his catch phrase began attracting attention. As a result, when Stroman signed deals with brands like New Era and BioSteel, they took the opportunity to incorporate Stroman’s personal brand into their activations. New Era, for example, released special edition hats featuring the phrase HDMH. BioSteel, another sponsor of Stroman, leveraged the #HDMH phrase on social media and throughout video content. This provided a strong fit as BioSteel was itself a challenger brand going against more established sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade. While Stroman is a premier pitcher and likely would have landed endorsement deals anyway, it was #HDMH that helped him build his brand among fans and allow sponsors to create customized activations around the endorser.

Athletes and properties are in intense completion for sponsorship dollars and through investing in their own brand, properties help provide a clear story to prospective sponsors. Sponsors can then use the property’s new brand in activations to create an integrated partnership. 

Drew Brees & Pepsi

Bridgestone & P.K. Subban