Boomtown tackled the challenge of redeveloping rugby in the Eastern Cape and developed a brand for Kings Rugby which filtered through to rugby on all levels of play. Boomtown carefully crafted a brand which appealed to the greater Eastern Cape population and ensured the province’s passion and excitement for rugby was once again instilled in the hearts of new and old loyal supporters.
Cheeky Watson and Co marched into the Boomtown offices at the end of 2008 and shared their future vision for rugby in the Eastern Cape. Given the fact that the state of the Eastern Province Rugby Union was in absolute shambles at the time (both on and off the field), it was a highly ambitious vision. It was one that involved not just the rejuvenation of a sporting team, but also the unification of a city of supporters and the upliftment of an entire province of followers. It was as much a plan to rebuild regional pride and local loyalty as it was a plan to redeem a rugby side. It was dream – but one which Boomtown was able to envisage, and latch onto, and ultimately help make a reality.
A lot of history flows from the Eastern Cape, politically, culturally, and socially. Some of the country’s best rugby talent emanates from the area and whilst the province is uniquely renowned for its many black rugby players and rugby supporters, rugby in the area unfortunately still had a typically old school South African stigma attached to it.
Part of the new vision for rugby in the Eastern Cape was for it to one day become one of the strongest black rugby franchises in the world! If rugby was to realize both transformation and unification, then it would need to tread delicately, and appeal equally to the old target markets in Despatch as much as it would need to appeal to new target markets in Kwazikele.
To this end, the way in which Boomtown evolved the brand from the ‘Mighty Elephants stomping the field’ to the ‘Xhosa Kings of Southern Africa and the Eastern Cape’ also had to be dealt with carefully. Further, the entire brand architecture of the rugby union required some serious deliberation. Ultimately it was understood that Southern Kings would play in the Super Rugby tournament, whilst EP Kings would play in the Currie Cup, and EP would play Vodacom Cup – not to mention the knock-on effect of the new brand into juniors, schools, club, and women’s rugby. The new rugby brand needed to fit together perfectly throughout all levels of the game, both in the short and the long-terms.
Finally, it must also be mentioned that the business of rugby seems to be played like the game itself – blitzvinnig! Boomtown adapted very quickly to a new gameplan with slightly different rules to the traditional corporate world of brand advertising, marketing and communication.
The flagship Southern Kings brand was initially formed to launch the team’s debut game against the touring British and Irish Lions on the historical date of 16 June 2009, in the first big game at the brand new Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. The game was labeled ‘The Final Frontier battle’ and the Kings very nearly beat the Lions on the day. With the new stadium almost filled, people got their first taste of what was about to happen in the Eastern Cape.
Following the Southern Kings brand came the ‘killing of the elephant’ and the establishment of the Eastern Province Kings and Eastern Province Rugby brands. By the end of the 2010 season, the EP Kings narrowly lost the relegation game for the Currie Cup A division, but the brand had grown considerably and the stadium was packed to the brim on a day where the atmosphere was described as equivalent to a Springbok Test Match!
In August this year, thanks to the success of rugby and momentum of the brand, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium hosted the only All Black -Springbok test match in South Africa this season. Nelson Mandela Bay will also host the SA Sevens tournament from now on, and when the EP Kings play in the Currie Cup relegation game at the end of this season, which will allow the Southern Kings to participate in the 2013 Super Rugby season, then finally, the once great big dream, will have become a great big reality.
Boomtown strongly believes that behind the great success of the Kings is a great brand, carefully crafted and appropriately communicated above, below, and through-the-line, as well as in all respects on and off the field of play.