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.”
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