The Los Angeles Clippers are looking for a new marketing agency as the team looks towards life in the post-Donald Sterling era.
According to a Request For Proposals quoted in AdAge, the Clippers want to hear from agencies with relevant experience in "rebuilding an established, well-known brand."
"It's not surprising," said Paul Swangard, Managing Director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. "If everything plays out as everyone hopes, it’ll be a whole new cast of folks who are helping this franchise come out of what has been a very dark period of its history."
In May, Donald Sterling's wife, Shelley Sterling, made a deal to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. Donald Sterling challenged the sale and his wife's authority to approve it in court, but a judge dismissed his arguments and upheld the sale.
As recently as August 5, Donald Sterling's attorney said the billionaire would continue to fight the sale and the NBA, which banned Mr. Sterling for life because racist remarks he made to a girlfriend.
AdAge also reports the Clippers mainly want to work with Los Angeles-area agencies. The team has worked with Irvine-based HEILBrice, which currently counts Cirque Du Soleil, the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Marie Callenders among its clients. For the Clippers, HEILBrice has done everything from creating slick season ticket renewal kits to engineering massive banners depicting Clippers stars on downtown LA buildings.
Keeping it local is both easy because the area is home to the most qualified creative agencies in the world, and ideal since Ballmer, the prospective owner is not a local, according to Swangard. "There’s an importance here to the franchise to continue to drive home the fact that this is an LA-based team that will remain in LA," he said.
An agency would face the challenge of refreshing a tarnished brand, but as dark as the stretch has been for the Clippers, Swangard said, it leaves behind some positives for an agency to work with.
"There's incredible equity momentum that's been built around the way in which people rallied around the team," he said. "The challenge to the advertisers is going to be 'how do we build that excitement around our brand that puts us in a position where why couldn't we be the hottest basketball ticket in town?'"
For a team that's played second fiddle to the Lakers for so many years, it will be a challenge indeed.