Editorial: You Can’t Rebrand Budget Cuts

  • Graphic Madeleine Gendreau

It’s the beginning of another school year and apparently Concordia’s student body can expect to greet their first week of classes with a brand new sense of unity. This according to Concordia’s Stingers rebrand, an in-process series of efforts to revitalize our university’s modest athletic department.

With the rebrand, dubbed #StingersUnited, Concordia students can expect, if you can imagine it, a new Concordia Stingers logo and an entirely new onslaught of Stingers branding, including a student-run ad-campaign, and a lot of unnecessarily elevated phraseology.

Alan Shepard was quoted touting some high-minded branding buzzwords on an article posted on Concordia’s website.

“We wanted our new image to transcend sports and competition,” Shepard says in the press release. “From our students and their parents, our faculty and staff, to our alumni and donors, we are hoping to unite everyone who has a connection with the university.”

In the very same article, the genesis of the rebrand is described. Apparently the logo revolves around the “five pillars of Concordia’s sport programs: passion, adversity, roots, the road (an athlete’s journey to the field of play) and the hive (the buzz created by an engaged fan base).”

What none of these pillars seem to mention is financial sustainability. With $36 million in cuts to Concordia’s budget over the last three years, it’s difficult to imagine how money shelled out for more brandings, logos, ads, merchandise and promotions are going to inspire anything close to unity in Concordia’s halls.

“At the heart of the rebranding process was a reflection on who we are and what we stand for,” says Patrick Boivin, director of Recreation and Athletics.

And what is it to be united under a brand? We are not a school of marketing executives and team owners, nor a school of commercialized figures and values. Plus, pragmatically speaking, why choose sports as the thing to unite Concordia? There has never been a strong tradition of sports here.

Where schools like Yale or Harvard rally around teams that founded their respective sport, Concordia is attempting to brand teams that have never inspired community or any sense of unity amongst a student population largely separate from sports as a whole.

We’re a city school, for crying out loud. Besides the inherent fragmentation of roughly 40,000 disparate individuals in four faculties, none of which have anything to do with athletics, Concordia is literally split into two campuses on opposite ends of the city. Beyond that, we’re smack-dab in one of the most interesting, exciting cities in the world. State College, Pennsylvania is in the middle of nowhere, so it makes sense that football games are a town-wide event—there’s literally nothing else to do. But we’re in Montreal. Montreal: the city of sin. Who would choose football over sin?

So, let’s recap: No recent tradition, no allure and no interest. But we’ve got a rebrand. A rebrand in the midst of intense austerity measures, and it’s hard to believe other departments aren’t struggling. Last September, there were 20 staff replacements for the 90 that took volunteer buyouts—literally half of the expected 180 staff that Concordia was looking to relieve. Not to mention the mandatory 2.5 per cent reductions in academic sectors and 6.8 per cent reductions in all other sectors in place since 2013.

In this economic climate, would it not make more sense that Concordia be reinvesting in almost anything other than an ad-scheme and some elevated language?

The Link’s sports editors were unable to find out the exact cost of this rebranding. Athletics director Boivin said some teams will only have their home jerseys done this year and they can expect their away jerseys next year. “That’s in the interest of being cost-conscious.”

If Concordia were really interested in being cost-conscious, they wouldn’t have invested in a re-brand for an unpopular department. They could have just bought the jerseys.

I guess the logo’s pretty hot though.

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