Sporting KC – Rebranding to a Championship

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Sporting Kansas City is one of the OG clubs of the MLS. Debuting in 1996 as the Kansas City Wiz, the team already showed a panache for rebranding, changing their name to the Kansas City Wizards a year later.

Unlike many teams who undergo a rebrand, the Wizards weren’t unsuccessful. They won an MLS title in 2000, after all. But they weren’t as relevant as they could be; they weren’t sexy. The club took steps to rebrand themselves in 2011. Similar to the rebranding of the Sacramento Kings (aka Shaqremento) and the Toronto Raptors over the summer, the rebranding of the Kansas City Wizards took place in several steps, including:

Name Change: Kansas City Wizards recalls “The Wizard of Oz”, which is a find brand association for children. The name reflects the era when MLS tried to market to families. But when MLS realized that it should market towards 18-34 year old males, the association was out of place. In came Sporting Kansas City, which represents that the the team is more than a soccer club, it’s a sports club for the local community.

New Futuristic Stadium: Every successful sports rebrand needs a new sports arena. After all, the arena is the most visible symbol of a team, for good and bad. Sporting Park opened in 2011. The $200 million arena, which seats over 18,000 fans, is one of the most up to date stadiums in the league and not only holds Sporting KC matches, but USNT matches as well.

Style of Play: Head coach Peter Vermes put in an uptempo, pressing style of play that many associate with the Sporting KC brand. The style is physical, tough, and defensive at times, but effective.

Marquee Players: While Sporting KC has yet to attract a big international name ala David Beckham or Thierry Henry, they do have a popular homegrown centerback in Matt Besler, a USNT stalwart in Graham Zusi, and a keeper with eccentric, identifiable hair with Jimmy Nielsen.

The rebranding came to a head in 2013, as Sporting KC won the MLS Championship. And now, Sporting KC has the most powerful branding tool in sports: a championship.

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