SBJ/February 23 - 29, 2004/SBJ In Depth

Phoenix designs an updated logo that’s not coyote ugly

When the Phoenix Coyotes formulated a rebranding strategy midway through the 2001-02 season, they had undergone a recent ownership change, had a new arena under construction and possessed a logo in dire need of revision.

That hardly made the team unusual among recent sports rebrandings. But the Coyotes, recognizing the importance of relaunching hockey in a crowded desert marketplace, implemented a rebranding that would improve every facet of their operation.

The black-and-white sketches were concepts focus groups considered to replace the Coyotes’ old logo (top). The team molded the ideas into the final product (bottom), which maintains such details as the Four Peaks Mountain depicted along the snout.
They enlisted Ellison Research to hold focus groups that not only provided fan input on the new marks, but on other Coyotes issues. Team executives were able to watch and listen to the focus groups through one-way glass and were allowed to eavesdrop on phone surveys that included questions about customer service, the new arena and the perception of the team.

The team used the excitement of the relaunch to add new sponsors, Albertsons-Osco and Just Sports, which hyped the upcoming new logo through in-store teasers. Since the team did not yet have a merchandise store, it provided value to the new sponsors by allowing them to sell new merchandise during the team's exclusive one-week window allotted by the NHL.

A new marketing program, centered on the slogan "A New Breed," dovetailed nicely with the new marks, which were integrated throughout the new Glendale Arena on seats, directional signs and outside lampposts.

The Coyotes released the new marks on the team Web site hours before the launch, hoping to boost the site's reputation as a Coyotes news source. The launch itself took place Sept. 4, 2003, at the food court of the Arizona Mills mall, not far from a Just Sports outlet stocked with gear. Account representatives were on hand to sell ticket packages.

The team's public relations staff used the launch to reconnect with the local sports and non-sports media, no small task with the NFL and college football seasons starting and the Arizona Diamondbacks still in the playoff hunt.

The launch date was hardly ideal, especially with temperatures still in the 110-degree range in Phoenix and the Coyotes not scheduled to move into their new digs until nearly two months into the 2003-04 season. "Nobody is thinking hockey in September in Arizona," said Brett Rogers, the Coyotes' vice president of marketing.

Yet the Coyotes managed to make the launch a weeklong story, with players and executives appearing on TV and radio.

The new "howling Coyote" logo, produced by the Adrenalin Design Group, was the most extreme of the four finalists presented to focus groups. It also was the most popular, fitting in with the fans' wishes to get far away from the previous multicolored "masked coyote" logo, yet remaining true to the Southwest identity.

The result was a mark that features a desert sand and red palate and connotes aggression and speed.

"It was important that we didn't lose sight of the history here," Rogers said. "We obviously haven't won any Stanley Cups, but we've done a lot to brand hockey in a nontraditional market. We wanted to re-identify the organization, but at the same time remain true to the traditions that we're slowly building."

Pete Williams is a writer in Florida.

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