Branding the New England Patriots: A Behind-the-Scenes Look

Greg SheehanCorrespondent IMay 14, 2009

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If I could take a few minutes of time to contact anybody on the New England Patriots, I would actually walk past the playing field and in to the main office, specifically into the marketing department.

In fact, I have even made some phone calls, but to this point have been unable to land an interview.

To me, the branding of the New England Patriots is an incredible journey; the logo was completely reinvented in the mid 1990’s and now stands as one of the most recognizable in sports. I would suggest that a large part of this has to do with their success and notoriety, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

For years, a trip to Patriots game was a long journey away from the city in a traffic battle to nowhere, but in 2007 the Kraft Group used all that real estate to create a unique destination, one which would be an attraction even when the Patriots were not playing.

Here’s the wikipedia description of “Patriot Place”:

"Patriot Place is an open-air shopping center built around Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots. Phase 1 opened in the Fall of 2007, which included the construction of a small strip mall containing Bass Pro Shops, Staples, Christmas Tree Shops, Bed Bath and Beyond, an Olive Garden, and Circuit City (now closed).

"Phase 2 will include a 4-star hotel, and the opening of the stores in the mall portion. This includes a Red Robin and a Hollister Co., among others. The Bass Pro store is the first location in New England. It is also home to one of the first locations for Showcase Cinema’s Cinema de Lux brand, as well as many others opening shortly after."

The Patriots took advantage of their distance from major cities and made it an opportunity, taking a large step for branding the franchise.

Here is a list of my questions, I’m trying to figure out which ones are the best;

Every team’s goal is to win a Championship. In terms of marketing, what does a Championship mean for the brand? Do new possibilities emerge? After winning a third Championship in four years, was there a limit on the value of the brand or did even more opportunities arise?

Many NFL franchises are closer to large metropolitan areas, with less room to build up their ancillary attractions, do you think that having so much room to build will make up for the distance from Boston and Providence?

What type of impact does geography have on marketing possibilities? Do franchises in a metropolitan area have any advantages? Are there any other NFL franchises with a similar proximity between two cities that have provided insight to maximizing profit in Foxboro?

What have you learned from other Boston teams? Which of their marketing strategies do you watch the closest?

Does having a historic affiliation with the Bruins, Celtics, and Red Sox bring Patriots fans from all over New England? Is there a way to measure that?

The Detroit Lions recently changed their logo after an 0-16 season. How can a logo change effect the bottom line, is it simply a merchandising tool or can it really create a stronger affiliation between the consumer and the product?

If you were to rank the value of each logo in the NFL, how would you rank “Pat the Patriot” before the logo change, and how would you rank it now? Are they any specific examples of comparative values? How does it rank next to the Dallas Cowboys star?

The Dallas Cowboys, in addition to their star, have developed a lot of goodwill, if we are to use that term for the difference between the value of a business and the value of its hard assets, and their value has yielded them a new stadium.

While “goodwill” usually enters the mathematical equation when a business is being sold, how easy or difficult is it to access that value and use it for future development without having hard assets on hand?

When you consider reinvesting money into the franchise, how much of the money is cash on hand, how much is based on projected earnings, and how much is borrowed? What about on ancillary spending like Patriot Place?

With so much market volatility recently, many sports franchises have offered some pricing discounts on their concessions and possibly on some tickets or parking, how are you able to make cost-conscious decisions with projects that are currently still in development?

It appears that Patriot Place was going to feature a Circuit City store, but that company is no longer in business. Patriot Place looks like it will be a retail mecca; has the recent financial crisis made you slow down any developments or even cancel plans for certain items?

To get to where the Patriots are today, the football operation side has performed tremendously, arguably the most successful football team in the salary cap era.

When and if the NFL salary cap is removed, how much of the revenue stream should be allocated to the football side, and how much should be focused on continuing to build up the local attractions and retain the value of the brand?

If there is no salary cap in the NFL in the future, how will you determine what your player spending v. marketing budget will be?

Can you give an example of a marketing idea that was unpopular at first but met great success?

Speaking of goodwill in its more popular definition, in terms of reaching out to fans and making some charitable steps to enrich the community, how hard is it to determine which cause to support and what your limitations are?

Do you encourage players to host charitable events and let them use the facilities or perhaps use merchandise to help them meet their personal goals?

Miami changed their stadium’s name to Land Shark Stadium, looking to bring in Jimmy Buffett fans “Parrotheads” and encapture the Miami laid back fun in the sun lifestyle. Is there a celebrity indigenous to New England who would have a marketing impact on Gillette with the same kind of deal?


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