The influx of Manchester City cash into Melbourne Heart will do wonders for the local club and the sport’s profile but Man City should think twice before fiddling with Heart’s brand.
The English Premier League (EPL) club was announced as a major shareholder of a group that acquired the struggling club yesterday. The deal, which takes effect immediately, sent shockwaves through Australia’s football community, with questions about name and colour changes for Heart top of mind.
Asked if Heart’s red and white stripes are to be replaced with Man City blue and if the name is likely to change to Melbourne City FC to reflect its new owners, Manchester City’s chief executive Ferran Soriano said: “This is day one for us. We want to take our time and listen. I think everything is open.”
Manchester City should tread carefully, and slowly, when considering a name change, according to Adam Hodge, group commercial director of sports marketing specialist Octagon.
Hodge believes that despite Heart’s short history, the club formed in 2008, it has a strong brand as is.
“The Heart have established their brand and fans would appreciate the new owners showing respect for that,” Hodge told B&T.
“There is so much to be said for pride in a club’s history and identity and given most Australian football supporters also consider themselves fans of a EPL club, this may alienate Heart fans who’s ‘second club’ is not Man City.
“Just because you are a heart fan doesn’t mean you would necessarily be interested in supporting a team you despise in another league.”
An application to trade mark the name Melbourne City Football Club has already been lodged, according to Fairfax reports.
Changing the club colours from the distinctive red and white to blue could also prove tricky given Sydney FC is already blue, Hodge added.
The acquisition is also likely to have an impact on Heart’s sponsorship opportunities.
Westpac has been a major sponsor of Heart since 2010, Hodge believes it will be interesting to see what impact the change of ownership has on renegotiations.
“Man City has an impressive stable of global partners including Etihad, Nike and LG who all operate in the Australian market, so there may be opportunities for these brands to extend their involvement across the franchise.”
Manchester City is the principle shareholder of the Heart Consortium Group which also includes the owners of NRL club, the Melbourne Storm.
Manchester City’s investment is a “positive move” for both clubs and is set to boost the profile of Australian football. Hodge also believes a “strong cash injection” will lift Heart’s performance.
“With that said though, unlike the EPL where money literally can buy a winning team (although maybe not a championship team), money is less of an influence in Australian football because of the salary cap restrictions that exist.
“The owners have promised to establish academies for the Heart and develop the clubs infrastructures and facilities making it more appealing for players (junior and senior), fans and sponsors.”