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What the Washington Redskins Can Teach You About Branding

The Washington Redskins are a broken franchise. In the past twenty years, the Skins have won just three playoff games and won their division only once. Once! Since the Joe Gibbs era our large and dedicated fan base has become accustomed to mediocrity, and we are to a point where we expect to be let down.

What’s worse is that Redskins owner Dan Snyder gouges fans year in and year out with outrageous ticket pricing (including pre-season), parking fees, and $13 over-battered chicken fingers. We literally pay $100 for tickets over and over again so that we can stand in the freezing rain and watch our team get trounced.

You would think that after years of disappointment I would stop watching the games and stop giving my money away. Not the case. In fact, ask most people around the D.C. area and you will hear the same thing: “We love the Skins.” I love the Skins and always will. All of my friends love the Redskins and always will. So how can we all love something that is so broken?

The Washington Redskins are the fourth most valuable franchise in the world behind Manchester United, the Dallas Cowboys (boo), and the New York Yankees. I just don’t understand it; how can something make so much money if it makes so many people angry every Sunday?

Dan Snyder does not rely on players coming out and playing good football to make money. No, he relies on something much more powerful: the brand. The brand is what people think about when they hear the word Redskins or see a Redskins logo up on a billboard. It is the perception of what the franchise delivers, something very different from the what franchise actually delivers.

Everyone I know loves the Redskins because they grew up loving them. It is ingrained in our brains to love our team and hate Dallas. When people hear the word Redskins they think about watching the games with their dad and grandfather. They think about being with friends and experiencing euphoric and crushing moments over the years. The franchise is part of who we are and that is not going to change.

It feels strange paying for and spending so much time on something that I know is mostly brand loyalty. Every year I hope for a Super Bowl — or at least a shot at glory. When it comes down to it, I’m just spending my money on hope, and a feeling of comfort derived from a brand I grew up with. Anybody else have this feeling?

Go Skins. Super Bowl 2012.

 

Author: Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D. Who wears the boots in our office? That would be Lee, our managing partner, who suits up in a pair of cowboy boots every day and drives strategy and research for our clients. With a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology, Lee is a former researcher and tenured professor at Virginia Tech, where he became a national authority on organizational behavior management and marketing. He left academia to start up and run three high-growth companies, including an $80 million runaway success story.

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