May 07, 2014

Rebranding in Professional Sports: The Good, Sporting Kansas City

by Guest Blogger

Over the next three months, we will be publishing a series on rebranding in professional sports. We will cover the good, the bad, and the unknown. This week, the good. Sporting Kansas City.

Major League Soccer was founded in 1995. The inaugural season began in 1996. There were ten charters clubs. One of those clubs was founded by Lamar Hunt, founder of the American Football League and Kansas City Chiefs, among other sports franchises. That club was named the Kansas City Wiz for one year, then renamed the Kansas City Wizards. For the majority of the team's existence, this was its logo.


Unfortunately, the team did not have much magic and floundered for the better part of a decade. In 2006, Lamar Hunt sold the then Wizards to a group of Kansas City businessmen who vowed to keep the club in KC. In 2010, the new ownership announced that the club would be renamed as part of a rebranding effort and in conjunction with the opening of a new stadium. Fans were furious. Many claimed they would cancel their season tickets as a result of the rebranding.

At the time, the then Wizards were near the bottom of the league in average attendance and merchandise revenue. Indeed, around 600 season tickets were sold per year during the mid-2000s, and merchandise revenue in 2006 totaled only $30,000. So the ownership took a chance and pushed forward with the plan to rebrand. Thus, the era of Sporting Kansas City began.


And the rebranding worked. Since rebranding, Sporting Kansas City has been one of the most successful teams in MLS, on and off the pitch (known as a field in 'Merica). The club won the MLS Cup in 2013. In addition, it now sells well over 10,000 season tickets per year and more than $1,000,000 in merchandise per year. This is a prime example of the power of rebranding in professional sports when done right. Next month, we will look at what happens when rebranding in professional sports goes wrong. Until then, enjoy this video about Sporting KC's decision to rebrand.

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