It was a renovation months in the making – complete with a new logo, new sets under construction and a new look for the country's No. 2 cable sports network. But before Rogers Media president Keith Pelley could unveil the complete revamp of Sportsnet to its viewers and advertisers, he had to sell it to his own people.
The problem was the new logo. The team behind the company's new Sportsnet Magazine could not envision it on the cover. A magazine nameplate is usually simple, with the title often standing on its own, in a distinctive font.
But when Sportsnet Magazine hits newsstands on Thursday, the new logo – a pair of stripes in red and blue – will be front and centre. "It is so important at the beginning to identify this as our brand, and let it resonate with all Canadians," Mr. Pelley said. "That takes time."
Thursday's magazine launch is the first piece of a massive rebranding campaign across all the Sportsnet brands, which will be showcased on air on Sportsnet Connected, the channel's sportscast, on the afternoon of Oct. 3.
Rogers Communications Inc . has spent the past year aggressively building the Sportsnet brand – first launching a secondary network, Sportsnet One, then renaming its sports radio stations in Calgary and Toronto and adding yet another television network by buying control of the Setanta sports channel, which is to be renamed Sportsnet World.
For years, Rogers has tried to close the gap between its sports network and the industry leader, TSN, now owned by BCE Inc.'s Bell Media unit. As the sports broadcasting market heats up – with stations negotiating higher fees from cable and satellite companies, and battling each other for increasingly expensive broadcast rights – Rogers wants to emphasize that it is a contender.
"We're grown up now. We need to communicate that," said Dean Bender, vice-president of creative services for Rogers Broadcasting, whom Mr. Pelley recruited in January to overhaul the brand. In his office, he showed off the new, upper-case lettering on the Sportsnet name and the double-underline logo, which executives at Rogers call the "fuel strokes." The new motto for the station is "fuelled by fans."
The name of the station will also drop the corporate identity, advertising as Sportsnet instead of Rogers Sportsnet.
Mr. Bender had been creative director back in 1998 when Sportsnet launched under CTV ownership. He oversaw the design of the original logo known as "the player," a blue stick man, stylized in a swoosh around a red ball. But the player simply didn't stick. After 13 years, only 24 per cent of English-speaking Canadians surveyed in Rogers's market research identified the logo with the Sportsnet brand.
The company hired Hollywood, Calif.-based Troika Design Group to create its new look. Troika had the experience, with designs for the Golf Channel, Monday Night Football – and SportsCentre, TSN's flagship show.
The station's look may seem familiar to many sports fans. On-screen animations will take viewers a virtual sports arena; there is a sharper, machine-like look common to many sports broadcasters, with plenty of glassy black backgrounds and laser tracks shooting toward team icons, score panels, and the Sportsnet logo itself.
The rebranding also signals a new direction for Rogers Media, which is aiming to do more integrated marketing across all of its TV channels, radio stations, magazines and websites. In the coming weeks, the company plans to roll out more consistent Rogers branding across all its media brands, and offer more integrated packages to advertisers.