Was the AIS rebrand too expensive?

Published:  February 4, 2014
Clinton Duncan

The AIS rebrand was too expensive? Really?

“Five squiggly lines have cost the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) $500,000 to roll out across the country.”

The largely government-funded sport agency defended the price tag on its new logo at Monday’s unveiling, saying it would generate more commercial investment in the long term.

So begins the media coverage of the AIS rebrand undertaken by the Sydney office of Landor. A well intentioned and seemingly competent rebrand, when considered in the context of the real organisational change that appears to be happening with the AIS. The rebrand is even more admirable aesthetically, when considered amongst some of these disasters that abound in the sports branding category.

The Australian Institute of Sport has defended the half a million price tag for its new logo, insisting the re-branding will help develop more funding for athletes, not take money from their pockets.

This approach to reporting major rebrands has become so consistent and formulaic it would be comical were it not so damaging to the design industry, and the organisations whose rebrand are under the spotlight. I can’t imagine any change, no matter how insignificant, within a large organisation being much cheaper – where’s the scrutiny and price tag mockery when an organisation refurbishes an office, upgrades IT systems or launches a new product?

These are (rightly) seen as value creating, improving operations, efficiencies or opening new opportunities for growth. But not a rebrand – nope, it’s just 5 squiggly lines, nothing important or substantial, and certainly not worth the $500,000 price tag. $500,000!!! That’s half a MILLION dollars!

It leads me to wonder – what price would have been acceptable in the minds of the journalist writing the above copy - would $400,000 be acceptable? Perhaps $300,000 is a more palatable level. Of course this is an absurd exercise — it costs what it costs, because rebranding things is hard and time consuming, mainly due to a client’s own complexities and challenges, certainly not due to a greedy design agency.

Previous Australian Institute of Sport logo, the winner of a student competition.

The new Australian Institute of Sport logo, by Landor.

Thank you to The Australian, for painting a more balanced picture;

Projected revenue for the current 2013-14 financial year is $14.4 million. Sponsorship revenue for the period is $2m. That was before rebranding. Projections for the 2014-2015 year should be far higher.

Bingo. The new brand is new vigour, energy and ambition. A well orchestrated commercial partnership operation, touting the rebrand to open conversations about new opportunities, could easily recoup the cost of the rebrand.

Real difficulty is created for the organisation, criticised so much in the fallout of ‘poor performance’ at the London Olympics. The focus on cost and price tags drowns out the real and seemingly impressive changes the AIS are undertaking, with the rebrand an important tool for signalling and reinforcing that change.

But the real damage is on our industry, impugned as a flippant waste of money, mocked as childish and easy to undertake, dismissed as a lipstick exercise with no chance of effecting any real change.

Which it isn’t, right?


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