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With the recent announcement by the Little Rock Trojans @LRTrojans (formerly “UALR (University of Arkansas at Little Rock) Trojans”) that they’re rebranding themselves (including a brand new domain name for their Athletics programs, LRTrojans.com), it didn’t even make National news. This is, unfortunately, the downside of not having a football program (AKA revenue generating sport, in the eyes of most people).
Have no fear, Doug is here! I wanted to dig into the rebranding a little bit more, in terms of not only a Marketing perspective, but a recruiting perspective. I reached out to my incredible friends with the Little Rock Trojans Media Relations department (Patrick Newton, Assistant Athletic Director for Communications, Evan Drexler, Associate Director for Communications, Women’s Basketball and Tyler Morrison, Sports Information Director for Baseball) to not only gauge their reaction, but to also get feedback from three of the head coaches: Coach Chris Beard (Men’s Basketball), Coach Chris Curry (Baseball) and Coach Joe Foley (Women’s Basketball).
I put forth several questions to the Little Rock Trojans Athletics department and Patrick answered on behalf of the Athletics Administration.
Doug Hazard: I assume this change has been planned for at least 6 months… how long do you see it taking for everyone to adapt to the change?
Patrick Newton: We reached out to several schools that have made similar transitions for advice (Charlotte, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Omaha), and they all made it clear that the change doesn’t happen overnight. But honestly, the initial reception of it has blown us away. It probably helps that we still have fans who knew us as the Little Rock Trojans back when we were Little Rock Junior College and Little Rock University. For them it’s a return to something, not necessarily something that’s brand new.
Doug: From a Media Relations standpoint, what kind of feedback are you getting from the Local Media on this? Any nibbles/bites from National Media pundits? And what about Alumni?
Patrick: Can’t say enough about how great the local media has been to us on this. All three local TV stations with a Little Rock sports presence were in attendance for the unveiling. One of the guys even came in on his day off if that tells you anything about their enthusiasm for it. No national pundits have mentioned it to my knowledge, which is fine. And our alumni have been extremely supportive. They love the University and they love the city. Many of them still live and work here and like the idea of pushing the community and region to the forefront.
Doug: BALLPARK ESTIMATE ONLY: Roughly, how much is it costing to rebrand the Sports side?
Patrick: Honestly, it’s not going to be very expensive at all. The logos were designed through our campus communications team, so those were done at effectively no cost. We knew from the get-go that we wanted to keep the Trojan head, previously our primary logo, as a secondary mark. So it’s not like we’ll have to go through campus and our uniforms and eliminate all that usage. But new uniforms and new signage, which were going to be purchased anyway, will reflect the new brand.
Doug: Have you received any pushback from the University of Arkansas System?
Patrick: We have not. I’d say it’s been 99 percent positive feedback at this point.
I put the following three questions to each of the coaches:
- With the re-branding to strictly “Little Rock”, what advantages do you foresee in terms of selling your respective programs to recruits?
- Have you received feedback from your recruits about this change? If so, what type of feedback are you getting?
- Obviously, everyone seems to be on board for the name change and rebranding, but can you summarize your own thoughts on this change?
Here’s how each answered:
Coach Chris Curry, @CoachCurryLR (85-77 lifetime, Little Rock 16-33)
Baseball Coach, @LittleRockBSB
In my opinion, the advantage of re-branding to “Little Rock” creates a brand that is distinctive, unique and no other college or university has it. It gives us immediate recognition when you talk to a recruit or their family about who we are and where we’re from.
Recruits like it. We have some freshmen on campus now, and they like “Little Rock”. Again, it brings an instant notoriety. People know who we’re talking about.
My thoughts on the change: I think it’s been a long time coming. Local folks know exactly what UALR is, but when you get outside of our state, a lot of people don’t. I’m all for it. We put Little Rock on our jerseys, and I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback. It flows well when you say it.
Coach Chris Beard, @CoachBeardLR (141-45 lifetime)
Men’s Basketball Coach, @LittleRockMBB
We think the rebranding of the athletic department to Little Rock has been a really good thing in a lot of ways. First, talking to former players and coaches of this university over the years, it seems like they’re all excited that this unites everyone. From the days of Little Rock University to Little Rock Junior College and most recently UALR, it seems like everyone is excited by the idea of uniting with Little Rock.
Second, one of the things we’re most proud of here is that our university is in one of the best cities in the world. Little Rock is one of the first things we use in recruiting – the fact that we’re in the capital city and in one of the great places to live, work and attend school in the country. We want to be Little Rock’s Team, and this move really helps.
Third, in recruiting the name recognition has really helped. There have been times before when wearing just the Trojan head or just UALR, and recruits from different parts of the country didn’t immediately know what it was. This makes things much easier and simpler. The feedback we’ve gotten from recruits and their families in this early stage has been tremendous. People are really excited about it and think it’s a good thing. We’re looking forward to getting on the road to recruit this month and proudly wearing Little Rock across our chest so that people across the country know about our re-branding.
Coach Joe Foley (700-212 lifetime, 244-131 Little Rock)
Women’s Basketball, @LittleRockWBB
It’s more positive as far as people understanding. When we’re in public now as far as TV and stuff, it’ll be more recognizable. In the near future people and recruits will just know us as Little Rock, and it’ll be easier to understand that way.
On a personal note, I have to give mad props to Fox 16 (Little Rock) and Wess Moore for how they handled the teaser regarding the Little Rock Trojans name change:
No More UALR Coverage? http://t.co/3XV7Lg4ZBA #ARnews
— FOX16 News (@FOX16News) July 1, 2015
I about panicked when I heard this news, considering that the Trojans are one of the teams that I cover for TCR. Once I figured out what was going on, I chilled out, rather happy about this change.
I am, however, supremely disappointed that this did not make National news… or even create a ripple amongst sites that cover mid-majors. It’s not every day that a school will completely re-brand its Athletics program.
Further, I would like to congratulate Little Rock Trojans’ own Athletic Director, Chasse Conque (@ChasseConque), for leading this change. I’m absolutely loving what he and the Trojans are doing to reinvent themselves. As noted previously, because they don’t have a football program, they have to get extremely creative (and competitive) in order to make sure they make a name for themselves.
Remember, when discussing Little Rock’s team, the Little Rock Trojans, tag your tweets and posts with #LittleRocksTeam. The Trojans will love you for it!
ALL photo credits in this article are to the Little Rock Trojans Media Relations team. Thank you, Patrick and Tyler for the assistance and with liaising the feedback from Coaches Beard, Curry, and Foley.