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3 Brand Management Lessons From the Launch of the Washington Commanders!

Yesterday, February 2nd, 2022 saw the relaunch of the Washington Football Team as the Washington Commanders.

In a recent edition of ‘Talking Tickets’ I wrote about how rebranding efforts are difficult and that if you can avoid them you do. I also mentioned that the launch and the pre-launch is where most of the budget should be spent and where the entire rebranding effort will be made or lost.

Now that the launch has happened and the initial press day is out of the way, let’s take a quick look at the new brand and see where all brand managers can learn a lesson or two from this effort.

The Power of Distinctive Brand Assets:

If you feel like nerding out on the concept, check out Jenni Romaniuk’s book on building brand assets…it is well researched and helps lay out the power of being distinct in great detail.

In looking at the launch of the Commanders brand, there is a lack of real, clear brand assets that the team laid out for fans to latch onto.

The primary logo is the “W”, but without any brand equity developed the team is already making the W burgundy in some places, gold in others.

The burgundy and gold was kept, but as many fans and comments made clear, the panettones on the uniforms didn’t seem to match the larger color scheme that represents the football team.

The key with distinct brand assets is that you want people to know it is you when they see your an image, hear a sound, or touch your brand in some way.

The classic example of a great brief and execution that leads to a distinctive brand asset is the Coke bottle that came with the direction to create a bottle so distinct you’d know it in the dark or if it lay broken on the ground.

You don’t see that here.


When I studied Brand Management under Mark Ritson, he had an admonishment that you “Codify! Codify! Codify!” Then, he would pause and say, “when you think you’ve used your codes enough, you use them some more.”

In Mark’s view, you can’t use your brand codes enough.


Brand Codes are symbols, mascots, tastes, sounds, smells, and other attributes that define your brand and that are always present.

A few examples to help you understand this idea would be things like the smell when you hit the lobby at the Four Seasons on Brickell in Miami. Tiffany’s Blue that is famous in the box, but also the facade of the stores. The “Just Win Baby!” slogan that the old Oakland Raiders used for years.

Those are codes that tell you exactly who you are dealing with and what you can expect.

In the Commanders case, the idea was to remove the old name but keep some of the brand equity and history of the team and the brand.

The burgundy and gold color palette is a good jumping-off point, but that is really where it begins and ends.

Most really well-managed brands have 4-6 codes that they use everywhere so that you know exactly who they are and what the brand stands for. Again, think of the logo of Louis Vitton. Imagine buying a Montblanc item without their signature snowcap. Or, back to sports, not seeing the NBA logo on anything NBA-related.

Codify everything!

Pick 4-6 items that you want to represent your brand and use them religiously so that you can’t be mistaken for someone one.

The importance of the launch:

Do you know who does a product launch well?


This is where you should be paying attention to the power of a good launch because of the buzz and hype build-up to the premiere and launch of a movie.

If you are looking for a guideline for how to break up your launch, pre-launch, and post-launch?

You are going to want to break it up about 70/30. With 70% of the budget going into the pre-launch and the launch.

In my time working on nightclubs, we’d run this playbook over and over again, annually for spring break. This happened for four years, seriously.

We’d come up with our theme for Spring Break.

We’d spend two or three weeks before Spring Break kicked off courting local hotels, restaurants, bars, and locals to help us sell our idea for Spring Break including promotions, advertising, and other collateral. We’d have a big Spring Break launch party with floodlights, radio stations, and more. Then, Spring Break would hit and we would ride the wave, using leftover flyers, ads, and collateral to supplement the established presence we had in the market, to tap into the brand equity we’d created in years past, and we’d drive the Mystery Machine up and down the Strip while a banner flew over the head with our promotion, a “follow the Mystery Machine” message or some other cheeky idea.

The key was that most of the work for Spring Break was done before Spring Break began in March.

We’d coast. The work was done.

In the launch of the Commanders, the only thing I really saw about the new name’s reveal was a few Twitter ads that shared a message about 2.2.22.

The “buzz” built a little on Tuesday when the name was leaked. There was some a decent amount of media on launch day, but having been a part of these launches for other teams around special events, anniversaries, and other key moments the depth that the Commanders went to to ensure saturation of the launch stayed at surface level. We hit the mainstream, but we didn’t get too far off the mainstream path.

No influencer campaigns readily popped up. Minus a Joe Biden tweet, nothing from local celebrities. A bit of a flat launch.

The key with the launch is you want to overdo it. You want to hit it from as many angles and with as much force as you possibly can because you don’t get a second chance to launch well.

Key Takeaways here:

  • Distinctive Brand Assets: Leave no doubt it is you.
  • The Power of Brand Codes: Use your codes everywhere. Codify! Codify! Codify!
  • Launch with Everything You Have: Once the launch is over, you are SOL. So front load your launch. Look at the movies and the blockbusters…they do it well.