By Jim Lansbury

Ah the holidays. A time for family, friends, reflection and, if you live in D.C., complaining about yet another disastrous Redskins’ season. So when Capitol Communicator asked for my thoughts on the challenges facing the team’s new leadership, I was relieved they only wanted to talk about the marketing part.

See, I’m not a Redskins fan, although RP3 Agency is full of them. (We even changed our name to RG3 a few years back… but I digress.) I’m a Bills fan. We’ve been down before, but never quite like this. So I can look at the situation objectively. That said, here’s what I would recommend if the Redskins came to us for help.

  1. Apologize. 

Profusely. Repeatedly. Publicly. From the heart. Snyder needs to take full responsibility for this mess. He needs to say “I’ve meddled too much, I’ve gone for quick fixes and splashy moves rather than building the team the right way, and I’ve taken the fans for granted. That ends now.” He should commit to a full-page ad in The Post. Hey, if players can do it to thank the fans when they leave, surely the owner can do it after two decades of futility. In this case, it might take an 8-page insert, but he can afford it. (BTW I would love to ghost write that.)

This is Crisis Communications 101. Take responsibility, be transparent, and make meaningful changes. Chipotle did it right when they had food safety issues. More recently Boeing has not, and they’re paying the price. A few years back, Domino’s Pizza took it a step further when they humorously admitted their pizza sucked and proceeded to change everything from how it was made, to how it was photographed, to how it was ordered and delivered. Since then their share price has increased 60-fold and the company is worth $9 billion. By admitting their flaws and improving the customer experience, they staged an almost impossible comeback.

  1. Create a vision, but be realistic.

Now that you’ve apologized, please disappear, Mr. Snyder. Let your new coaches and GM articulate the vision. Let them admit they’re in rebuilding mode and it’s going to take a while to turn things around. Let them define the kind of culture they want, and bring in the kinds of players that fit that culture. Let them be open and transparent with fans and the media in a way Bruce Allen never was. Social media can be your friend here. Engage with fans, invite them in on the process, and don’t be afraid to let them vent. 

  1. Give the fans a break.

Fixing the team may take some time, but they can fix the game day experience right away and start regaining some trust. For years fans have felt like they’re being gouged at FedEx Field. If this really is a new beginning, that has to end. Lower the parking fees and prices on jerseys and concessions. Offer more free shuttles, dial up the onsite entertainment and create some unique experiences to make the trip worthwhile. And above all, do something about season ticket prices. Something bold.

During the recession of 2009, Hyundai offered a full refund to anyone who lost their job within a year of buying the car. Their sales went up 5% in two months while overall spending on durable goods was down 20%. In the end, only about 300 people actually returned their cars, but Hyundai gained 2% market share. The Redskins should do something just as bold. Maybe lower prices by 50% and guarantee no increases until they make the playoffs. Or let fans lock in for three years, and get half their money back if the Skins don’t make the playoffs by then. Or offer full refunds for unwanted seats and donate them to charity. Anything’s better than a stadium full of Cowboys fans.

  1. Don’t advertise. Yet.

Any attempt to generate excitement right now will fall on deaf ears. Plus, the Redskins’ brand should be about more than just the product on the field. So why not focus more on the team’s community impact? The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation needs to make a bigger imprint. The WRCF does a lot of great work in the region with little notice or, frankly, support. The annual report boasts raising $3.2 million to support local communities in 2018. That was less than one percent of the team’s total revenues. Make a bigger commitment to our local communities and you’ll build stronger goodwill across the region.   

  1. Reconsider the name.

I know this one opens up a can of worms, but it’s worth revisiting once the bleeding has stopped. I wouldn’t do it now because it’ll seem like another publicity stunt intended to change the conversation. But if all the other steps have been taken, and a new culture and identity for the team are taking hold, it would make perfect sense to make a name change. Especially if you let the fans have a voice. 

Well that’s page one of the marketing playbook. It’s actually pretty simple. Unlike the football part.

 

Jim Lansbury is founder of RP3 Agency, a Capitol Communicator sponsor, and has been an award-winning copywriter and creative director for 25 years. After stints at big agencies on both coasts, working on big brands like Lexus and EA Sports, he realized big wasn’t better. He built RP3 with a nimbler model and more collaborative spirit because it gives him and his team the freedom to explore new ground and always let the best idea win.

 

 

 

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