How to re-brand the Tahs - Green and Gold Rugby
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How to re-brand the Tahs

How to re-brand the Tahs

On G&GR over the past weeks, we’ve had a stack of stimulating discussion about Australian rugby advertising. But to me, advertising is just the window dressing, what we really need to discuss are the brands.

At the core of any brand is the product itself, which punters connect with through a story.

Snorky: a 33 year-old rebel

For the Reds, their product of Quade-fuelled champagne rugby, together with an underdog / comeback story that has more than doubled memberships and stoked the fantasies of rugby fans outside of Queensland’s borders. The Rebels also have their narrative – hard bitten professionals forging a band of brothers in new, uncharted territories.

But as someone asked astutely on another post – what about the Tahs? There’s no fairy tale story here – they keep getting close, but disappointingly with no cigar, leaving expectations unmet. What fairytale story do they have?

And what about their product? Despite stats like the ones in Austin’s latest post showing that they ran more metres and scored more tries than the flamboyant Reds, they’re perceived to be the boring Australian super franchise – of one out hit-ups followed by a hoof downfield. Perhaps because of this, even with comfortably the biggest player base and the most recent success of any franchise in Australia the Tahs membership numbers remain comparatively disappointing, being topped by new kids on the block in Perth.

The answer for the Tah brand? For me, it starts with the product. There’s a notion going around – purported by some respected commentators – that the only way to win and entertain under the latest rule interpretations is to play ostentatious, wide-running rugby.

Not true. These pundits (and so many other Aussie rugby followers) have confused forwards-centric power game with defensive/negative rugby. What’s the difference? In the latter you use your forward strength to slow the game and find field position from which to kick goals (see England’s natural fall back and South Africa 2009). In the former, you use power and pace of recycle to attack with your forwards, either smashing your way to the line, or creating space for pacey runners out wide (see the Blue Bulls 2010, who scored more tries in the regular season than any other team).

This is every bit as thrilling to watch as any other type of rugby, and I would argue moreso. It is real continuity, not pointless breakdown after pointless breakdown from one side to the other, but forwards powering forward and backs living off it. Pop balls, pick and goes, offloads, supporting players driving on the hip of the ball carrier, clearing out past the ball, driving mauls, back row moves. The sort of skills French packs seem to be born with.

Here’s just a few examples of what I’m talking about

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AY4co5uWMY[/youtube]

What is more, the Tahs have just the team to do it with. The pack this Friday will weigh in at whopping 912kg. But these aren’t old lumps in the squad – Polota-Nau, Palu, Mowen, Dennis, Douglas, Mumm, Robinson (and anyone who doubts Waugh’s vitality hasn’t watched him play) – all players in their youthful prime able to sustain the intensity required. On form, TPN and Palu are game-breakers at this level. In the set piece, there’s plenty of height in the line-out and the best scrummaging front row in Australia.

Marshalling them is the guy who epitomises bustle and threat around the ruck – Luke Burgess. There’s no hot-stepper with golden hands at 10, but this gamplan doesn’t need one – both Barnes and Halangahu can direct a backline and put the ball in the right parts of the paddock. In midfield you have a powerhouse and defensive brickwall in Carter, Horne and Cross – all of whom can take the ball over the gain line and set targets for the pack to run off.

The cherry on the cake is probably the most dangerous back three in Super rugby this year – Beale, Mitchell and Turner. If the forwards suck in defenders and shatter defensive lines, these three will run amok out wide and with inside balls through unders lines. Let them kick return at your peril.

So, if that’s the product, what’s the story? Well, it’s clear the Tahs can’t be the underdog. So fuck it, don’t be. Be the bullies. Be the giants and gods that men aspire to be. Give the crowd something to howl “Blooooooooo!!” about like we did back in the 80’s when I was a kid, giving us a bloodlust as we see yet another opponent’s pack get left splintered across the field. Be leaders, not followers.

But most of all CHOOSE. Own a style in Australian rugby that, as it happens, the Wallabies are desperately in need of and no other code can come close to. Make the Blue Bulls vs the Waratahs the clash of the titans that everyone looks forward to. Make retaining that monstrosity of a pack a tradition to not be let go of – where juniors like Greg Petersen at 204cm and 122kg are commonplace and specialist skills like line-out calling and tight-head propping are passed down through the generations like the heirlooms that they are.

In marketing terms it’s called being a leader. Build this story using the right product, and they will come.

  • DT

    Someone pass this on to the Waratah marketing team.

  • JJJ

    They spend too much time trying to convince the League crowd that they are basically a more international form of League, and not “yawnion” or “kick-and-clap”. I agree they’d probably be better off focusing on points of difference rather than points of similarity. Australian forward play could definitely do with having a bit more glamour and prestige thrown its way, and the current marketing strategy obviously isn’t working.

  • Great article!

    You have really hit the nail on the head – best quote I’ve read, “Well, it’s clear the Tahs can’t be the underdog. So fuck it, don’t be. Be the bullies. Be the giants and gods that men aspire to be”

    The Tahs really do have an epic team – its time to make stories about it. I agree with you completely, just because your on top doesn’t mean you cant want more. Make a brand within a brand – make brands of players, do anything to get connected to your fans. And as you said its not like there are aren’t potential stories or ideas to work with, (as mentioned) Beale, Barnes and Mitchell – “Threes not a crowd – its a killer”. “TPN and Palu – “Goliath and Goliath – dressed in blue”, make something, anything, what do I know I run a Biltong and Beef Jerky store. Even if your players aren’t flash hot theres a story – it just needs to be told. And by told I mean use the marketing mediums that are accessible and cost efficient – use social media, use the net as much as possible, its where a lot of our time is now spent. I’,m sure we all saw the Tahs viral video on “Summer Training” and it was great – but I never heard about it from the Tahs themselves, I heard about it through the Wallabies Twitter.

    By marketing the Tahs, surely rugby union in general will be benefited, especially now since Union has moved down to 9th most popular sport in Australia?

    Great article once again.

  • stoff

    Good analysis, but I would have thought step one would be to clean the artistically placed mud you see on their website (and I assume other places) off their faces.

  • MickeyDR

    The Queenslander in me says New South Welshmen are stuck up douche bags from south of the boarder. However the rugby fan in me says the Tahs have a cracking line up with Wallabies up front and out back who just like the Reds last year (if they play to their potential) should rebrand themselves in 2011.

    • rugby smartarse

      the NSWelshman in Me says you should learn to spell Border :)

      • MickeyDR

        You have got me there, well played sir.

  • Garth

    IMO, Beale. Just give it to Beale.

    • Farque – I could have just posted that!

  • Alan

    Excellent, excellent article. Summed up the situation perfectly.

    Please pass this onto the Waratahs and the ARU, they would benefit greatly by having a good read of this.

    • Alan

      also with the size of the waratahs forwards, i really want to see them bring back the rolling maul, there is not many things more exciting then seeing a battering ram of players smash their way down the pitch

  • Pedro

    How about if any franchise were to promise to keep their scrum up & if they get two or more penalties against them they will all donate their match fees to the flood appeal?

    Nice points though gags, no more warablahs.

  • James Humphries

    I still think they’re boring but would like to see Phil Waugh in the Wallabies again – ferocious workrate, never gives in, experience, devestating tackles and ruck work – would be a fantastic partner for Pocock.

    Beale is fantastic.

    Polota-Nau and Robinson deserve a spot in the world cup squad. I wouldn’t pick any others, however.

  • Homer j

    Unfortunately they have one thing that will stop them winning the comp – T.Carter

    TPN has better feet, pass and speed than him.

    • I think TC does A job and does it well – his stats tell the story. Ask him to do anything outside of that and it can go a little wrong, but the Tahs don’t need to.

  • derrickbarnes

    I think everyone agrees with Homer j here. T Carter is rubbish.

    Speaking of brand – there are obviously two sides – product and customer. Why do the Tahs let down a large proportion of their supporters by taking games to ANZ? A packed SFS is unreal – a half full ANZ is soul-less. It doesn’t make sense to me. A game at the SFS also has so many more pre and post-game options.

    • Hawko

      Have a close look at his play this year. His game against the Force was anything but. Yes I know it was a trial but he made the Force backline look ordinary. Unless I miss my mark, he will be an integral part of a very good Tah backline. He’s got a job to do, it fits perfectly into the overall Tah power gameplan, and has the potential to take us through to the final.

      Great article Gagger, I agree with everything you wrote

    • Bay35Pablo

      As discussed ad nauseam on the Rorar, Homebush gave them a truckload of cash to play games at Homebush. Check out their financial report for the last few years and you’ll see a figure of about $1m floating around in there in this regard.

  • redbull

    Tahs get let down by 9-10-12. They haven’t had a good combination there in years. Good strong pack, great back three, but whats in between? To play the game you suggest, which is the game rugby should be selling, they need the midfield link. Barnes may provide it but he might be Robinson Crusoe

  • bazzar

    I’ll just leave this here…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V82OwyF_vBg

    seriously watch it it’s about marketing.

    • Haha – nice to see someone’s been paying attention….

    • Bay35Pablo

      I clearly have a bad case of Otaku for the tahs. Hope it’s catching ….

  • Tahzan

    Freaking pumped ! Jumping on a plane and heading to Melbourne for the game tomorrow. Can’t wait to see that last couple of paragraphs in full force, full flight , full on !

  • CJGP33

    Good video… however is it just me or did none of those fine patterns of play result in tries? And that is the problem for the Waratahs…. finishing. And a lot of that has to do with the inability of Waugh to be a presence at the breakdown after 5,6,7,8 etc phases in open play. (Or was it just the editing?)

  • Langthorne

    Winning the comp would help the brand inestimably, and the team you described there could certainly do it….but does the team in the description really exist? I hope so.

  • Bay35Pablo

    Tha stability of the team, as many have said, is the thing this year. For all the complaints they played well last year, and made the semis. A lot of their players are even better now (Beale etc), and the team has the combos built.

    Every other team has also developed, but if we can step it up by 10% it should be good.

    Wisemantel is gone and Bowen is now backs coach too, and Muggo has been helping on defence part time.

    BTW, stuff that “Bloooo” call (although I did make the same call in the mid 1990s before “Tahs” became the call). Firstly, I’m not cheering on Auckland. Secondly, every bloody Aussie team but the Reds are blue. “Taaaaaaaaahs” it is.

    And we’ll never be underdogs, so I agree let’s be bullies. “We’re the best, you all want to be us. Get out of the way.” Revel in the role. Works for the Bulls!!!!

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Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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