Luther organized the rebranding effort, putting a new team mascot and colors up to a vote by the students.

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Magazine

For 28 years, the Baxter CSD (Iowa) football team was part of a co-op with Collins-Maxwell. After a messy divorce between the programs last fall, Baxter decided to rebrand.

Baxter CSD Principal and football coach Rob Luther knew he needed to rally his school after a long fall of tough negotiations with neighboring Collins-Maxwell CSD failed to resolve differences in a proposed co-op agreement.

The school’s football team disbanded once the co-op ended, and the 30-year coach needed to sell the student body on a new 8-man team with half as many the players in the program compared to the previous season.

“Some might call it rebranding, we called it a time of reimagining,” Luther said. “It was negative with the other high school. Let’s put it behind us, and make it into a positive. We needed to get the student body invested in the program.”

Luther organized the rebranding effort, putting a new team mascot and colors up to a vote by the students. Just before Christmas, he unveiled the new mascot and school colors at a pep rally with a video produced by Baxter Technology Director Eric Padget.

“The kids bought in hook, line and sinker,” Luther said. “Our middle school and younger kids love that we have a new identity. It has created enthusiasm, and our gear is flying off the shelves.”

Baxter K-5 Principal Josh Russell designed the new logo, which was displayed at the end of the pep rally on sample football helmets and uniforms modeled by Baxter students.

5 Ways to Rebrand

Change the Mascot

In order to generate enthusiasm among the student body, Luther allowed the students to vote on the new mascot to replace the old one, a Raider. Students narrowed the list down to four finalists – the Railriders, Bulls, Knights and Bolts – before voting on the Bolts.

Change the Colors

The new school colors were unveiled at a pep rally with AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” playing in the background. Purple, silver and black balloons – representing the new school colors – were dropped from the ceiling. “Not often do you get a new school song and colors,” Luther said.

Create a Hype Video

The hype video was set to the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and also included congratulatory messages from Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell, central Iowa sportscasters Keith Murphy and Andy Fales of WHO TV-13, radio personalities Ross Peterson and Andrew Downs from 1460 KXNO and former students.

Host a Pep Rally

The fever pitch for the rebranding peaked during a pep rally, when Luther unveiled the new mascot and school colors. Luther invited Baxter residents to attend the pep rally. One attendee was 1951 graduate Alice Robinson, who was a member of the first class to have 8-man football in Baxter.

Sell New Gear

Because the students picked the new mascot and colors, they were more inclined to buy gear and apparel. “The t-shirts and gear have been flying off the shelves,” Luther said. “I don’t know anybody that went this far in terms of trying to generate enthusiasm. It worked.”

Do you have a thought about this article that you would like to share? If you do, email managing editor Dan Guttenplan at dguttenplan@ae-engine.com. Tweet us @fnfcoaches.

About the author

Dan Guttenplan