Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Crosstown Rebrand


The goal of rebranding a product or service is to change the way people think about it.  To do so, marketers can change product fundamentally or they can give the appearance of a change.  A fundamental change is a lot of work but certainly necessary in some cases.  A lot of marketers simply settle for presenting consumers with the of appearance of change.  However, the danger of doing so it their effectiveness of changing perception in the long-term is usually null.  Soon enough, consumers will eventually discover that the product is no different.

I'd like to present a recent rebrand that is admittedly close to my heart.  In the city of Cincinnati, the is one basketball game that is hyped up more than any other game each and every season. Known as the Crosstown Shootout, it's the annual basketball game played between Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati. 

I'll try to explain why any of this would matter. The game was first played in 1927 and became in annual tradition in 1946.  So, the game has been played longer than most Cincinnatians can remember.  The game is between the two biggest universities in the city.  Also, the universities are only separated by a couple miles.  Therefore, extra attention paid to the result of the game because the opponent is such a familiar one.

Suffice to say, there is a lot of natural hype surrounding the game.  The Crosstown Shootout doesn't need any hyping up from marketers.  It's always a very intense and highly-competitive game.  

That intensity will often bring out the very best in two competitors who dig deep to give everything they have toward a goal.  It's what makes rivalry games like the Crosstown Shootout so great.

But the opposite can also happen.  And it did happen in 2011.  The pressure and intensity brought out the worst in otherwise good people and the game ended with an ugly brawl.  Sadly, the on-court fight earned the Crosstown Shootout more attention than its ever received before, embarrassing two great institutions like never before.

The result was, in my opinion, a superficial rebranding of the Crosstown Shootout.  The name was changed to the Crosstown Classic.  A branding firm designed a flashy new logo.  The game was moved to a neutral off campus site.  A charitable beneficiary was added.  The 2012 Crosstown Classic was all about creating the appearance of change.          

Although, it's worth noting charity was already part of the Crosstown Shootout.  This fact was just never publicized as it should have been during the national broadcast of the basketball game.

Unfortunately, I'm a little lost as to how a museum visit and monetary donation "embodies values both universities share and helps create a new culture around the game," as the former President of the University of Cincinnati Dr. Gregory Williams put it.      

Real change looks more like the student governments of both schools collaborating with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cincinnati.  Or an annual Crosstown Shootout alumni game with the teams playing for charity.  Or current participants collaborating on youth basketball camp to take place the week of the game.  Personally, I think these changes are a truer embodiment of the values of sportsmanship, respect and community.  

Lastly, in order for perceptions to change, it's necessary for the values of each University to actually receive as much as airtime as the guy dumping a mound of cheese on a plate of chili.      

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