Bearing up

17 April 2018 | Liz Bowen

For any sports team and its fans, promotion to the league above is always a cause for celebration.

As the wife of a man who supports a football team constantly clinging to the promise of promotion only to seemingly have the opportunity pulled out from underneath it at the last moment, I know how equally frustrating and yet elating it is when the team finally succeeds.

And while the subject of this blog is actually a rugby union team, I’d imagine the aforementioned frustration and elation are equally matched.

In celebration of its promotion back to the Premiership next season, Bristol Rugby has announced its intention to rebrand as the Bristol Bears, even changing its club crest to an image of a bear’s head.

According to the team, the name references the bear’s “physicality, spirit, hunger and fearlessness as well as ‘awakening from hibernation’.” The relaunch, which is due to come into effect on 1 June, is also aimed at securing a new generation of supporters for the team as well as positioning it in the international market.

The team has previously changed its name, becoming the Bristol Shoguns following a deal with car manufacturer, Mitsubishi.

However, the latest moniker has had a somewhat mixed response from fans with many publically mocking the choice on social media with a variety of memes, with others pointing out the city’s distinct lack of any link to the animal.

Even Bristol Rugby Supporters Club has expressed its disappointment after claiming the club didn’t consult the group beforehand.

It’s no secret that a well-established brand – led by its name – becomes a huge part of a sports team’s identity. Teams such as the Cardiff Blues and the Worcester Warriors, for example, are widely referred to by their team name, i.e. the Blues and the Warriors, rather than their home city.

But, for any business or organisation, a new name can also open the brand up to whole range of mockery. In Bristol’s case, this comes with claims that the team will be referred to as ‘Yogis’, ‘Boo Boos’ and ‘Fuzzies’.

A rebrand can reap huge PR benefits for any company or organisation. A change of name, colour scheme and tone is always sure to generate headlines for the right reasons if done well, especially if done for the right reasons.

However, on occasion, the decision can fall flat. Time will tell if the Bears can prove the critics wrong and become a rugby powerhouse.