/ 11 April 2011

Rev Reboot, Part III: Positioning

imageThis is the third and final in a series of Rev Reboot posts; we’ve already covered identity and uniforms on our way here. (I also intro the project here and will likely close it out with some kind of a “what just happened?” post after this one. Update: that’s now here.) We’re almost there now – to a newer, stronger, more passionate Revolution soccer presence. With concepts and colors in place, the Revs have been readied to accept a new position in the regional landscape. It’s time to define it. In this post, we’ll explore where the Revs could fit in the public mindspace, and how they can take active charge of their own brand. We’ll define their attitude and sense of self. We will reposition them.

Author’s note: the entire Rev Reboot series is now up and online.¬† When you’re done here, feel free to read on.
Intro: Why I should get to Reboot the Revs
Part I: Identity
Part II: Uniforms
Part III: Positioning
Final Word: Summing it all up
Enjoy? Get the Rev Reboot T-Shirt!
Thanks for reading!

The first part of positioning is to take a stand somewhere, about something. Identify a few core values and promote them as central to the kind of entity you are. I’m not sure the Revs have done this successfully yet – they seem to be trying harder lately, with the “We Are New England” ads I’ve seen in a few places around Boston – but suffice to say they are certainly aware of the concept. The strength, creativity, visibility and success of the campaign is questionable, but they are taking a stand. Well, raising their hand politely and coughing, anyway.

This is only the first part of positioning, though. They are missing the second half of the equation – the important half. And that’s positioning yourself against something else. To show the public, by comparison, where you stand. Exceptional brands give people something to triangulate with. They say, in so many words, “We are over here. (And we’re definitely not over there with those guys.)” “We Are New England” sounds pleasant enough, but what local company or sports team or entity wouldn’t say that? That position, and slogan, could be anybody’s, from Dunkin’ Donuts to the Sausage Guy. It’s not different enough. It casts too wide a net, and invites too many in.

To be memorable and identifiable, a position has to at least appear to be somewhat exclusive; furthermore, it has to allow a wide variety of folks to believe they are on the inside. And that’s only the beginning. To be appealing, it has to make the goings-on of the exclusive group look fun, exotic, exciting or worth trying. The Revolution currently do none of this.


In previous entries, I’ve played up the tagline “Belong” as the spiritual centerpiece of a re-awakened Revolution identity. The simple phrase brings together the soul of the current team and the strengths of their new identity easily and powerfully. Belong, as one does to a team. Belong, as one does to a group of dedicated fans. Belong, as one does to a revolution. And Belong, as the Revolution do, on the field, with anyone.

Furthermore, Belong is an incitement to a public who, traditionally, are not aware of just what goes on at Revolution games, what makes them different or fun. “Belong” is the identifier that makes the Revolution stand out – the essence of making Revolution fanship feel exclusive, and valuable and different than what people are used to.

On Style

We’re about to discuss the Revs and the unique positions they need to take in the regional sporting conversation. But first, I’ll address the style I’ve given them, and you’ll be able to see it applied in the examples below.

The Revs need a style that suits them. To me, that’s: Quick-witted. Pithy. Unafraid to say something competitive or to tweak others just a little bit. Saying just a little – and leaving a lot more plain, but unsaid.

The template for the attitude here is the mighty status update. Whether Twitter, Facebook or otherwise, the “status” is a communication style all emerging soccer fans will be familiar with. A status is sometimes a joke, sometimes an enticement – but it leaves more to be said and implicitly invites friends to join the conversation.


In the following treatments, all wording is voiced with an ear towards the “status”. Enhancing that is the idea of the hashtag – # – which instantly connects words to social platforms and creates de-facto conversation streams. Spinning off the officially re-christened Boston & New England FC, the hashtag #bnefc creates a unique stamp on all campaign media that implies a social audience and creates a working, usable conversation tag.


Now, on to positions to see the style in action. Here are the positions the Revolution need to stake out:

Positioning v. Untapped Audiences

Regarding imageBoston and New England, the Revolution are in the unique position to market to an international fanbase who’s already learned to love soccer. Large communities from every continent have a home in Boston and New England, including significant pockets of Latin, South American, African, European and Asian soccer fans. Some of these fans speak their native languages first, and cheer for their native and beloved soccer teams first – because old habits are hard to break, and because they haven’t found that authenticimage connection here. The Revolution need to enhance the flavor of being at their games – and this will peak with an urban, transit friendly stadium, but even until then – they need to invite these traditional soccer communities, in their own languages, to bring the party to Revolution matches. Who belongs: passionate soccer fans of all backgrounds and languages. Who doesn’t belong: those who are uncomfortable with a large, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic fan experience.

Positioning v. the Local Sports Landscape

New Englanders know, intimately, what it’s like to be die-hard Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics or Bruins fans. They know what it’s like to be in the stadiums, and on the phone with friends bitching about the team, and reading every last column in the sports section and talking about last night’s game around the water cooler at work. These are comfortable, familiar, positive feelings.


(Facing the TD Garden, giving the Bruins and Celtics a little stick.)

If they can access it, the Revolution can build on this passion. Just as being a Bruins fan has a slightly different flavor than being a Red Sox fan (and you enjoy be both at once), being a Revolution fan has a particular character that plays into and enhances the experience of being a sports fan in New England. It’s time to carve a space in this lineup for the unique and wonderful feelings that can come with being a Revolution fan – and to play feisty sibling to the more-established franchises.


(Facing Fenway Park, tweaking the Sox and Liverpool at the same time!)

Who belongs: Passionate regional sports fans (if they’re open to something different), existing soccer fans of all stripes who already “get” what makes soccer great, would-be fans that haven’t found a home yet, and the other local teams (if they can take some ribbing). Who doesn’t belong: close-minded local fans; teams that won’t play along.

Positioning v. rest of MLS

Within MLS, the Revs have a reputation as being a solid, well-coached, slightly plodding, not-at-all-fancy team. A reputation for dragging themselves toward success, with mixed results. They don’t play with flair or beauty, or with recognizable stars, but they often get the job done. It’s time to start playing up the team’s best strengths – toughness, attitude, no-nonsense soccer and the ability to assert themselves on other teams. And it’s time to start tweaking other rivals who don’t have those qualities. image

Who belongs: those who can identify with the Revs’ workmanlike, never-shaken attitude. Who doesn’t belong: other MLS teams and fans; “big time” teams that might underestimate the Revolution; fancy footballers.

Positioning v. the Public’s Expectations of Soccer

imageBy and large, the public does not know much about professional soccer, what makes soccer fanship fun and addictive, or what to expect from the Revs or any other teams that might come to town. It’s time to start illustrating what being a Revs fan means, on the the field and in the stands – and leaving them with the impression that they are missing something great. It’s time to start making Revolution games feel like important, human events – not just exhibitions. And it’s time to start confidently ignoring those who will never give the Revolution a chance. imageWho belongs: people who like to be in a crowd, with friends, screaming and yelling and singing; people who wonder what actually does go on at a soccer game. Who doesn’t belong: people who are satisfied with a less passionate style of fanship.

Positioning v. Generations

It’s a clich√© that US soccer fans always stress that the upcoming generation will love soccer more than the grumpy old folks that call it boring, poseur-ish and un-American. It’s true, though. It just took a little longer because 1) the US needed to start making World Cups and doing well in them [check], and 2) cable TV and the internet needed to mature and bring top-tier soccer into everybody’s home [check]. Now it’s easy to be a soccer fan, and increasingly it’s a mark of good taste to demonstrate your fanship. It’s time to build on that and go further – pushing the marketing and enhanced attitude of the Revolution onto the platforms of the young conversation. This means a voice that sounds right on modern social platforms, and media that is self-aware and created ready to be passed along. It’s also time to forget and ignore the old folks and the old media. Just flat out, confidently ignore them. They don’t belong. Who belongs: people of any age who are comfortable speaking and living in a new, younger world. Who doesn’t belong: set-in-their-ways sports fans.

imageWe’re not trying to create tradition and history out of thin air. We’re simply putting the team clearly in context, displaying a new confidence, and inviting everyone (who wants it) to belong.

The goal of any team is, simply put, soul. This isn’t it; not yet. But this is the road leads to it.

I’ll have one final post to sum everything up (update: here it is!) – thanks for reading!

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