Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
R.I.P. Big guy.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Chicago Bears: A Brand Not Just Team In Distress

The Chicago Bears are a team in disarray but their on field issues are the least of their problems. I have become disinterested in the team and I don't think I'm alone. This is not just the temporary frustration of a disappointed fair weather fan. True, I will always favor my beloved city which is why I can root for both the Cubs and the White Sox. I still respect the tradition that the Bears organization represents but I no longer identify with anyone associated with the team.

An expression I've used for decades in my consulting practice is: I see me! The essence of any brand is how the target audience identifies with an entity, product or service. In sports, identifying is done with individuals. While fans can say they are loyal to a team, they inevitably name people associated with the team with whom they connect.

In the case of the Bears, fans often mention Halas, Ditka, Peyton, Sayers, Butkus, McMahon, etc. In addition to greats from the past, fans of any team will identify with current names as well. This is the Bears' problem. There isn't a single person associated with the Bears with whom I care to identify.

In recent years the character and culture of the Bears was altered. Coach Lovie Smith was recognized as aloof and arrogant which distanced him from the fans. He appeared less than tolerant, if not, at times, dismissive toward the media. Interestingly, many of his players display these same characteristics. Jay Cutler and Brian Urlacher, the offensive and defensive leaders do little to disguise their indifference toward fans and disdain for the media. The front office and the Halas family have been represented by a  series of uninspiring personalities. The Bears have lost all personality.

It's time to bring in a John Gruden type coach who attracts other expressive personalities if the Bears truly want to restore the luster their brand has lost. But every time a strong personality has risen within the organization (there were many from the 1985 team) ownership moves in another direction, almost as if to say "No one can become the face of the franchise." As much as I dislike him, what has Ray Lewis' personality meant to the Ravens? What would their respective teams be without the personalities of the Manning brothers? The Green Bay Packers have always been led by bigger than life characters.

Whatever they choose to do going forward, I will be watching the Bears, not necessarily on game day or as a fan but rather as a student of brands. It will be interesting following to what degree the value of the Bears advances or declines.