Wakeman Consulting GroupWakeman Consulting GroupWakeman Consulting Group
+ 1 917-705-6301
Washington, DC 20008
Wakeman Consulting GroupWakeman Consulting GroupWakeman Consulting Group

Why The Indianapolis Colts Rebranding Effort May Not Work


My audience must know me because I received a number of emails about the story about the Indianapolis Colts’ new branding efforts under the banner of #COLTSFORGED.

I was pretty excited to see a team really emphasize branding because I have been pretty adamant in many forums that the brand of these teams is everything and in many cases they have been allowed to atrophy to the point of meaninglessness in a lot of sports.

So when I saw the first video posted in the campaign last night, I was a bit alarmed because despite it being a well done video, as a tool to rebrand the team and try to drive people towards the team, or remind them what they love about the team, I think it probably will miss the mark.

First, the video:

Like I said, it is a well done video.

Where the whole concept lost me after watching the video and reading the articles associated with the push of the branding effort is in the following ways:

  • Brands aren’t really built with words, they are built with actions.
  • You build or rebuild a brand most effectively built off of publicity.
  • The best brands have a single focus, one word that they own in a consumer’s mind or their market’s mind.

Let’s take a look at each of these ideas in turn.

Brands aren’t built with words, but actions:

How many of you have sat on the phone, listening to the recording tell you that “Your call is very important to us.”

Which we all know is BS.

Or, have you been to one of those many customer appreciation nights at a stadium around the country where some platitude like “our fans make it all possible” plastered on the scoreboard and a cheap giveaway is handed out? While the service is just as indifferent and the customer experience is the same as any other day besides some announcements?

Exactly, we’ve all been there.

Part of that is on the shoulders of marketers who have forgotten how to act human in their interactions with the customers and prospects, but the bigger point is that brands aren’t built with words. They are built with actions.

Saying your “call is important to us” means very little if I sit on the phone for an hour, waiting to resolve a BS issues.

Telling fans that they are “so very important” means nothing if they are constantly greeted by indifference, long lines, bad food and drink, and utter indifference.


In the case of the Colts’ campaign, trying to inject “family, hard work, and respect” into the brand is noble.

But without action they are just words.

And, a TV commercial or hype video isn’t going to help create that environment…only actions will.

Brands are built with publicity and supported with advertising:

Al Ries once wrote, “The birth of a brand is achieved with publicity, not advertising.”

Those words have held pretty true over the years.

It is largely because the way we consume information is so much different than it was in the past. In a far gone day, we may have been able to bludgeon people into submission with our creative and our advertising.

Don Draper had a much easier road to hoe with his efforts than you or I do.

That’s why publicity is the key to today’s efforts.

Cutting through the clutter of our modern life takes an ability to generate publicity and awareness of something that we do so well, or better than others, or that we are first to do.

After people know us, we can use advertising to support that awareness.

Think about the way that Apple launches a new iPhone.

They hold a huge launch event that gets hyped in a lot of press for weeks in advance. The launch event gets a tremendous amount of coverage in all forms of media and the hype lasts until the phone hits stores. After that, they start rolling out new ads that support all the free media and earned media that they have achieved.

That’s what political consultants never quite wrapped their head around with Donald Trump. It was not so much the message in many cases that made him seem everywhere, it was the constant attention and earned media publicity that made his candidacy seem bigger and more substantive than it might have been.

The same works here with the Colts. They’ve led with their advertising and if they aren’t careful the advertising will be expensive and they won’t get the impact that they hope to achieve because they haven’t laid enough groundwork before the advertising starts.

The best brands have a single word or phrase that they can capture in their audience’s mind:

Family, respect, and hard work are all fine words and ideas to hang your hat on, but…what’s the one organizing principle that the Colts are aiming for?

I’m not sure.


The best example of this is the Raiders with their “Just Win Baby!”


It doesn’t get any better than that.

During the prime of the Raiders franchise in the 1970s, they lived that motto.

I think of the Spurs: World Class

I think the Lakers: Showtime

The New England Patriots: Dominance

Alabama Football: The Process

Apple: It Just Works

All of these examples act as a mission statement for the organization. This goes back to culture and actions mattering more than words.

That’s what why the one single phrase, word, or idea is so important to a brand.

Think about Apple. Other companies may roll out new features or technologies more quickly, but Apple has built a business on only rolling out the newest technologies when they can be integrated into the products in a way that makes it easy for their customers to use them with no disruption to their experience with the device.

The University of Alabama and Nick Saban’s Process means that every play is a chance to win and a chance to improve. It means that you always have a focus on the next step.

With the Patriots, I am never surprised if they win or if they are in the Super Bowl.

The thing with the Colts campaign is that I think it would be much more successful if they had found a more targeted and meaningful word to build the campaign around.

Just off the top of my head, knowing that they are focusing on hard word, family, and respect: dedication makes a lot of sense to attach to the team.


Dedicated to hard work.

Dedicated to the family of the team, community.

Dedicated to respecting themselves and their fans through their action and efforts.

Again, I applaud the emphasis on the brand and branding…I just hope that this doesn’t become one of those ad campaigns that wins awards, looks pretty, and doesn’t deliver the impact that all the effort should demand.

What say you?

BTW, if you like this stuff and the stuff I usually post, I do a Sunday email that talks all about value, connection, and humans. You can get that for free by sending me an email at dave @ davewakeman.com