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The Cleveland Indians Guardians

Change is difficult, especially for sports fans who religiously worship their teams and don apparel with their logos. So it’s not surprising that when the Cleveland ‘Indians’ management recently announced the team will become the ‘Guardians’ after this season, the rebrand was met with mixed reaction.

Team owner, Paul Dolan, said the decision was spurred by the team’s desire to do the right thing. And many fans are quite supportive. However, others believe the new name takes political correctness too far. While only time will tell how successful Cleveland’s new name will be, here is what we believe management is doing correctly, and how its strategy can be applied to rebranding financial services.

1.    Management knows its audience. About 40% of Major League Baseball fans are minorities,* so the team wants to be inclusive and respectful. In addition, the team conducted market research before choosing the new name, speaking with fans and civic leaders about what it means to be from Cleveland. Loyalty, pride, and resilience were the characteristics most cited and guided the team’s selection of the ‘Guardians’ name, along with inspiration from the Guardians of Traffic statues on the Hope Memorial Bridge, just outside Progressive Field. Cleveland pride informed the decision to emphasize ‘Cleveland’ as the best part of the team’s name.

2.   Management retained what was working. To maintain a level of familiarity, management kept the same red and blue color scheme and similarly angled script font. The ‘Chief Wahoo’ logo was removed from the uniforms in 2018 and replaced with a new logo inspired by baseball and the wings on the guardian statues.

3.    Management communicated with empathy. In a video sympathetically voiced by the very likable Tom Hanks (a big Cleveland baseball fan and star of the 1992 baseball movie “A League of Their Own”) that was shared on social media, the team took a position of unity and inclusivity, giving a nod to their community as ‘forward looking’ and a ‘city on the rise.’

The decision to rebrand should not be taken lightly, whether you are running a sports team or a wealth management firm. Although you may have established equity within your brand, times change. If your brand no longer represents your mission or differentiates you from the competition, it may be time for a refresh. A successful rebrand will resonate with your audience, keep what’s not broken for familiarity, and let constituents know why and how the change will take place. It also helps to win, and if Cleveland wins the World Series, all will be forgiven.