The NFL must not ignore Deeyung Entertainment’s concept helmet designs. If anything, the NFL must recognize these helmets as an awakening call to rebrand itself. The designs, once again, got me thinking about how the NFL floundered a number of controversial cases this past season. It got me thinking about how it continues to grind through each hazardous situation like loggers slicing through endangered habitats without care. And it got me thinking about how 2015 is a prime year for the NFL to shift gears and rethink how best to build its empire without also hurting its natural surroundings. After all, kill off one animal species and the entire food chain crumbles.
While some critics would argue against this rebranding logic because the NFL reported all-time high profits in 2014, two questions loom. First, how might those profits look in five or ten years, if ever-growing storms continue to batter its supposed hurricane-proof foundation? And second, while the NFL continues to grow and expand like no other sport, does it really think it has no pressure points?
According to many, the NFL’s arrogance will be the reason its empire’s borders begin to decay. For example, it’s continued inability (or lack of caring) to relate to millennials, who are historically distrustful of big businesses and CEO, will eventually damage the league beyond repair. According to a 2014 survey by high-profile brand tracker and USC professor Jeetendr Shedev, 61 percent of millennials “identified the NFL as a sleazy organization.” Sixty-seven percent said they don’t trust NFL players. That’s how millennials felt before the league’s domestic and child abuse scandals, as well as Deflategate. And based on the NFL’s failure to truly address domestic violence, millenials’ attitudes are likely the same now as they were before.
And that’s where these new concept helmet designs by Deeyung Entertainment come in to play.
Rebranding is a multi-dimensional process. If the NFL was smart, it’d take a subtle, probably indirect hint from these concept helmet designs and repaint how people view its brand. While it could literally repaint itself (e.g., change its logo, change slogans or change team colors), a more figurative repaint works just fine.
NFL THIS IS YOUR OPPORTUNITY! Don’t screw this one up too!
For example, take how other large corporations rebrand themselves by either redesigning their product line or repositioning an existing line in consumer’s minds. Sometimes even both happen. Burberry rebranded in the late 2000s when it felt it need to fix how people perceived its style, but still wanted to recognize its 150-year old history. Why did Burberry have to rebrand? In 2004, pub owners in Leciester, England banned folks from wearing Burberry brands in their establishments. Owners deemed Burberry “one of the favourite designers of a group of thugs.” In the late 2000s, Christopher Bailey reimagined the brand’s message, brought celebrities on board, and BAM!, sales rose by 27 percent in 2011.
Or if fashion design isn’t your thing NFL, what about beer? After all, Anheuser-Bush signed a six year, $1.2 billion agreement with you in 2011, and in 2014, Budweiser sponsored nearly 88 percent of NFL teams, which made it your second largest sponsor. Even more specific to your problem, last year Bud Light rebranded itself to increase sales among millenials after 2014 reports indicated continued drops in beer sales. Therefore, Bud Light is the perfect corporation for you to look up to if you decide to rebrand.
How did Bud Light successfully rebrand? They first decided to do something that you, NFL, appear to be strongly against: Recognizing and believing in (socially) progressive thinking. In their “Up For Whatever” campaign, Bud Light focused more on addressing the “why” than the “how.” (We’ll explain this concept more in a bit.)
First, Bud Light took over a small town in Colorado–Crested Butte– and transformed it into something they called “Whatever USA.” They then asked a ton of people to storm the newly-rebranded town for a short vacation of being “up for whatever.” During the event, Bud Light used a heavy dose of social-media to track and advertise people’s engagements in real time. For weeks and months after their Crested Blue takeover, Bud Light aired a variety of “Up For Whatever” TV ads, and they even redesigned their cans to reflect how their consumers thought. The last part of that statement is key.
To ensure this campaign was successful, Bud Light had to turn the old linear AIDA marketing model on its head. According to Forbes, unlike the original AIDA model, which upheld a linear trajectory to sell a product (Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action), Bud Light recognized millennials follow a much more loose model. Naturally, that’s not surprising because 1) we have ADD, 2) we interact with brands more quickly than past generations because of faster technology and 3) we don’t trust big companies and CEOs, but we do trust our friends and networks.
Bud Light rebranded itself by focusing on “interactions and customer engagement.” They focused on how their customers thought rather than how Bud Light thinks customers should think. That is the “why” in their campaign. Bud Light wanted to address”why” people come together. Most believe Bud Light’s rebranding efforts were successful because of the campaigns longevity–it had a spot in Super Bowl 49.
Bud Light 2015 Super Bowl add commercial #UpForWhatever
So, it’s not all that hard NFL. If one of America’s oldest breweries can change its image, so can you.
We’ve seen plenty of examples of redesigns not only positively shaping consumers’ impression about a brand, but also how the company feels about itself. For example, even on the sub level, NFL teams have adopted this strategy to change both players’ and fans’ perception about a usually poor product. Sales sour and attendance improves. Yes, the team still has to produce on the field, but the rebrand provides that team with time to improve. It’s a short-term fix that can yield bot immediate and long-term results.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers started fresh in 2014 by redesigning their jerseys and helmets. The Jaguars followed suit in 2013 to “revive one of the NFL’s worst teams.” “There’s no reason not to win now,” said Jaguars’ owner Shahid Khan.“We can’t blame the uniforms.” And while some will argue that these corporations and teams rebranded only because they were failing, that doesn’t mean organizations shouldn’t stay ahead of the curve and rebrand before things go south. *cough* *cough* NFL.
Again, while Deeyung Entertainment likely did not intend to even passive aggressively suggest that the NFL rebrand by offering concept helmet designs, it would be refreshing if the latter did.