Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 1 as Sporting KC

So for those of you in KC that are soccer fans, how many went into work today and had people come up to you and ask you about the name change of the team, asked you why it happened or asked you to explain exactly what the hell Sporting was and what is that SC on the logo that looks like two snakes having sex? I kept track and I had 15 people come up to me at work today asking me about the name change. Tonight when out picking up some stuff I had another 1 see me in my Wizards coat and ask me the same question.

I'm sure other people have had similar experiences in KC. It's certainly not the easiest thing to explain, the reason why they're called Sporting and you can only direct people to look at the reasoning on the team's website so many times. Many that I did explain it to actually liked the idea of a sporting club, thinking it was a pretty cool idea overall, which I actually agree with. The idea is cool, the question is how the team pulls it off, I'm sure it will start with lower revenue generating sports like rugby and lacrosse, but will they move into more high profile sports like basketball and hockey in the future?

Hopefully the need for an explanation lessens over time, and it certainly should, but today along with the good responses I got a lot of that's stupid, why'd they dump the history of the name, and why'd they go with a European name, this is the US. And while Robb Heineman has said this wasn't about copying a European name, the fact that when soccer fans think of the name Sporting in regards to soccer, most think of Sporting Lisbon.

The name has gotten a good beating in the local media as well, on the radio and on TV. Last night on NBC Action News, Jack Harry said that of the comments on his Twitter page about the change 99% of them were negative. Other news organizations seemed to have similar results, or they spent some time making a joke or two about the new name. Certainly not the way you want to start off your new era under a new name. Sporting Club has their work cut out for them in fighting against this early negative connotations about the name.

Around the MLS world the reaction hasn't been much better, a lot of what I've read today centers around MLS again dumping it's "American" identity with another step towards a more "European" one. Fans of all teams seem to be bashing on the new name, the logo and the jerseys. The name is obviously getting the brunt of it because of the European connotation, but the logo is getting it's fair share. The questions about why the SC, why not a KC, why have Kansas City above Sporting when the name is Sporting KC. All questions that I've seen asked all over the place with relation to the logo. The jerseys have not been left along either. While I think the new uniforms are sharp I do see the arguments people have against them. The Wizards had been the only team really wearing a more "true" blue for their uniform any more. Now with the rebranding they run into more uniform conflicts. The two jerseys at first glance look similar to Vancouver's colors and jerseys although the home jersey is a light blue unlike the Whitecaps white. With the light blue though, they're very similar to Colorado's secondary jersey, although the word is that they are going to white next year. As for the indigo, it'll certainly remind a lot of fans of LA and New York's away jerseys with the similar colors.

Overall it could have gone worse. The world didn't end, the sun came up this morning, etc. Still there is a lot of work that will need to be done by the front office of Sporting KC to continue to get the word out on the new brand, push it out to the fans and none fans and push for a better understanding of what the name and the brand means now. They did a decent job last night, but the news isn't going to show the full announcement. It's up to them now to make people understand the reason for the change, help them embrace it, and help people begin to develop a love for Sporting. The one question I do have is how much of this did they expect? How much of this negative reaction did they expect and how much are they actually currently taken back by? Either way it's not going to be an easy process.


Drew said...

I get the feeling that Rob and SKC have the conflict where they are oblivious to any criticism. In the end this will blow over by midseason and no one will truly care what the name is except the true fan. Again, I have to put out Rob said the fans are now members like in Seattle. But I don't remember get a vote on the name, kit or DP signing.

Reepicheep said...

Ongoal seems to have made this decision internally and are using the euphoria of the new stadium to slide it in. What possible market research could have showed the name, logo, and jersey to be well accepted? Here's my opinion:

MOUFWASH said...

problem is that the name is driven by a concept and that concept hasnt yet materialized.

it actually makes me feel better that Jack Harry hates it, I felt dirty for giving money to an event that he christen at the Comets opener last Saturday, clear signal to me that this wasnt going to be one of my teams and this wasnt my kinda scene.

You can pick apart any decision and cannot please everyone, and often the easier route in todays world is knee jerk negitive.

I think you are being extermely fair in regard to all of this Mike, good stuff, keep it up.

Anonymous said...

I've been getting texts and facebook messages from people I haven't heard from in years just saying they thought new name was dumb, stupid, gay... People who I know who are actually soccer fans who do end up at games a couple times a year seemed to take more digs as the logo with the squiggly S and C and less about the actual name Sporting KC / Kansas City Sporting SC /or whatever the actual name is.

Anonymous said...

MOUfwash -

Jack Harry was at the Comets game along with Don Fortune (flew up from Florida) because they used to call the Comets games on KCTV 5 in the 80's

It was part tieing the past with the present.

Matt said...

Mike, thought you might find this interesting. This was one of my friends take on the new brand and MLS club names:

"I think I'm in the minority, but personally, I think the more euro the MLS goes, the better off the league will be. Most sports fans in America don't even count MLS as a major league sport, so why try and Americanize the sport and deviate from what is already proven overseas..."

Interesting perspective I thought, even though I don't completely agree with it.

Grain of Salt said...

Nice "looking" logo... Helluva bad name. What should be remembered about branding is that it has to appeal to your target audience - the target audience being as many people as possible. Granted, "Sporting KC" may appeal to futbol aficionados. However, "growing the brand" necessitates bringing in the less experienced fans that make up a broader base of consumers. The market should already be cornered with diehard soccer fans. The focus is to try and win the hearts (and wallets) of new fans. Marketing to the wrong audience is a mistake. The new team name alienates fringe and prospective fans. It smacks of elitism and is somewhat cliquish in context. In my opinion, "Sporting KC" conjures images of tweed caps, Purdey shotguns, cigar rooms, low tea and 18 year-old single-malt scotch whiskey. It also sounds like a local fishing and hunting magazine...
I think it's important to get away from trying to seduce prospective American soccer fans with European aesthetics. Using a sports fan's basic tool, the cheer, the new team name falls flat: "GO SPORTING KC!" Go indeed. The use of the name in casual conversation falls flat as well: "What are you doing tonight, Robb?"... "I'm going to the Sporting KC game!!!"... "Uhh..whaaa?"

Another marketing mistake is to presume that you know what your consumers want. Existing and prospective fans of the Wizards predominantly want WINS and a legitimate shot at a championship every year. A new team name has little or no impact on that goal. "Wizards" isn't exactly inspirational as a brand name... but an ambiguous verb, cross-dressing as a noun, doesn't evoke emotion either.

Fans want an instinctive, emotional and sensory connection to the name of their team. "Sporting KC" is hollow, antiseptic and soulless.

"So what would you name the team," you say? Try these on for size:
KC Knights
KC Kings
KC Blues
KC Monarchs doesn't sound too bad either... it's tried and true.

Good luck with your Sporting KC. Hopefully, the futbol team will outperform its marketing team.

Grain of Salt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
moop said...

Grain of Salt, you hit the nail squarely and soundly on the head. I've been saying a lot of the same stuff since the hint of a name change and even more so this past week. Unfortunately, it often seems to fall on deaf ears.

One of the big issues that seems to escape people's attention is the number of times we've heard, "it's a second chance to make a first impression." For a second go around at a first impression, the execution has been soft, seemingly not well thought out, and filled with generic visuals.

Our home jersey was unique before - royal blue. Our new home jersey, as mentioned, mimics Colorado's away. Additionally, it is a much more passive color. Our away kit resembles not only New York, L.A., & Vancouver, but Chivas as well - not to mention that New England wears navy as their home shirt. Why didn't we pick a pattern or something? When I think iconic jerseys, I think vertical stripes like Milan, Inter, Newcastle, and Chivas. I also think hoops like Celtic, Sporting Lisbon, or QPR. Heck, I even think of the white sleeves of Arsenal or the halves of Blackburn. The jerseys could have made a statement, but instead made a whimper.

As for the name and badge, they are generic and copycat. Several people have mentioned the likeness to the Eastern Conference logo. Overall, the new shield looks like it belongs to a security company or a pharmaceutical company. The name also ends up being soft, generic, and lacking any lasting identity to it. Is it a soccer team, a gun club, a social club, or an organization that puts on children's sporting events?


Anonymous said...

Grain of Salt,
"but an ambiguous verb, cross-dressing as a noun"
I love this!
I really like the KC Monarchs idea!

In a dark time this blog has been a light to me...I still have hope..maybe this is all a bad dream.

Anonymous said...

The name sucks... But what is more concerning isn't being discussed!!

Soccer is still a fringe sport. Why on earth would our club take on projects in other sports more fringe than us (rugby/lacrosse) that will lose money? I've heard that they are partnering/buying the KC Blues Rugby and the rumor is that they'll be subsidizing their club. What??? That is crazy! The expectation is that they'll cover they're traveling expenses which could be $30k to $50k per year.

There are plenty of soccer specific ways to spend money and resources, why subsidize other sports?

Felixx219 said...

I have explained it to several people over the last few days and have found that through explaining it, I have a better understanding of it.

Most people that came to me had the "WTF?" kind of attitude but everyone had a completely different tone once I explained things and most seemed to think it was a cool idea and they were eager to see what happens.

As I posted on BS, this is a name the organization is going to have to grow into. It is all about execution of the business plan which I fully expect to take place at this point. But, if they dont execute, this is a massive failure.

Initial backlash means little when it is something that is intended to be permanent. It's not really about how we feel today but how we feel a year from now or ten years now.

I actually had someone at work who only had a casual interest in the team now considering season tickets as he feels the organization is more professional than before.

Ky said...

I cannot believe that we needed a new identity. We have a cup title, we have a shield title and we have fielded some of the greatest players the league has seen. That wasn't good enough? Sporting has no titles, no players of note, no history, no prestige, nothing. We have grown into the Wizards since 96. We are already defined as a club and I am very proud of our first impression.