A soccer diary from across the pond

Monday, January 28, 2013

Why the New York Cosmos will likely fail

What makes a brand a good brand? If you boil it down, it is all about the brand promise. You can have a product of sub-par quality, but if what you are promising consumer is a low price, rather than a quality product, you can still have a good brand, as you are giving consumers what they expect.

That is exactly what good branding is about. Defining what your product is, find out, who wants that, tell them that they can get from you, and finally ensuring that what they are receiving is what they expected.

These core principles of branding, are extremely relevant when you talk about the "re-birth" of the NASL and the New York Cosmos. When a brand is reintroduced by new owners, you have to deal with the fact, that you infact do not own the brand fully. The fans of the original NASL and its team, have strong associations of the meanings and connotations of those brand, and the new NASL will have to deal with these expectations.

This is where, it becomes problematic for the NASL 2.0 and Cosmos 2.0. Because what NASL 1.0 stood for was glamour, foreign stars, and a somewhat high standard of play, by virtue of these old, foreign stars. When people think Cosmos they think Pele and Beckenbauer. When you think of the LA Aztecs they think of Johann Cruyff and George Best. Ironically, these are also the players associated with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in addition to Gerd Müller.

So when a fan of the original Strikers go to a Strikers game in 2013, he or she is bound to be disappointed when its a Andy Herron, rather than a Gerd Müller leading the attack.

There are high expectations generally associated with the old NASL names, and by virtue of the money and infrastructure involved the NASL, I have a hard time seeing those expectations being met. Especially when it comes to the Cosmos. They are THE team, that people remember from the original NASL and I am very much curious as to how, they will connect the brand to the product that they will be fielding in the fall.

Some might point to the Cascadian teams and ask why they work, so well in spite of the issues I have put forth, but I see the reason why those brands fit and work well, is that they transcended the NASL and continued in other forms throughout the years and stayed relevant to the community.

When the Cosmos are back and when the suggestion is made that Chivas USA rebrand to the Aztecs, consumers aren't so stupid that they think that this is the old team coming back. There might be some immediate curiosity, but also a strong sense of scepticism, as it is clear that new people and new organizations are trying to capitalize and monetize on an old brand that the consumers held dear, without having a real connection to organization and the community behind the original brand name.

These Cosmos name carry a lot of baggage and it i to be used successfully it will take a huge marketing and community effort by the front office, to tell the fans of the original team, why this new team should be accepted as the Cosmos and why, what will see, will be very different from what they saw then.

If that can be done I will applaud them. Not only for succeeding with such a huge task, but I also think that succeeding with this will be to a benefit for American soccer.

Good luck Cosmos - you'll need it.

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