‘They’ve already got some brand recognition’: Branding the Tasmania Devils AFL team

Tasmania Devils AFL logo

Nathan Birch: “Tasmania Devils vs Tasmanian Devils – I’m sure the lawyers at Warner will keep a close eye on that.”

“Sporting rebrands are fraught,” Nathan Birch, CEO of branding consultancy Interbrand, told Mediaweek in response to the launch of the AFL’s newest team.

“Not only do you have to consider the response of an incredibly emotionally invested fan base, but the most obvious names and creative treatments for clubs, especially new clubs, are more often already owned.”

After years of partnerships with Melbourne team the Hawthorn Hawks, Tasmania is finally getting its own AFL and AFLW team. Last night, the colours, logo, and foundation guernsey for the Tasmania Devils were unveiled ahead of the team’s official entry into the competition in 2028.

Nathan Birch

Nathan Birch

Branding the Tasmania Devils

The league’s 19th team will play in myrtle-green, primrose yellow, and rose red – colours associated with football in Tasmania as far back as 1908. At the centre is a yellow map of the state with a red T.

What baffles me is on the founding guernsey, the insistence on putting a ‘map of Tassie’ on the front with a large T on it. Beyond the obvious vernacular pun, is this just a placeholder for a sponsor? It seems a bit of an afterthought,” Birch said.

“You won’t be able to stop everyone commenting on a sports brand, but when done well, it galvanises fans. When done poorly, it alienates them, and for a new team, that can spell disaster.”

Devils Picture: AFL Photos

Picture: AFL Photos

Tasmania Devils vs Tasmanian Devils: Negotiating with Warner Bros. Discovery

Despite the Tasmanian devil being a native icon of the state, the naming of the team wasn’t straightforward. The phrase Tasmanian Devil was trademarked by Warner Bros. Discovery in 1984 after the Looney Tunes character – who was partially inspired by fellow Tasmanian, Errol Flynn.

It’s testimony to the power of the brand that a US media company effectively owns the brand most associated with the island state of Australia,” said Birch. 

“Sports branding and naming need to be conducted with a level of due diligence, consideration and care that goes beyond the simplistic views of the CEO or the CFO or, indeed, the incumbent fan base.”

Negotiations over the right to use the name have ultimately ended in the AFL’s favour. A statement released on Monday night said: “Warner Bros Discovery and the AFL have come to an amicable agreement and look forward to seeing footy fans across Tasmania support the AFL’s newest football club, the Tasmania Devils.

“The ‘Devils’ will no doubt be a club that unites the state and showcases the best of Tasmania.”

With the level of popularity the Looney Tunes character enjoys to this day, Birch said, “The team won’t be able to separate itself from the cartoon character created in the 1950s. Maybe that’s a good thing for a new team; they’ve already got some brand recognition and awareness, even if the lawyers at Warner don’t like it.

“Tasmania Devils vs Tasmanian Devils – I’m sure the lawyers at Warner will keep a close eye on that.”

There has been no news yet as to whether or not there was any cost involved in securing the team’s rights to use the name. 

The Devils name has appeared before in the NBL, with the Hobart Devils existing from 1983-1996. When Tasmania made its way back to the basketball league in 2021, the team was blocked from using the Devils name due to the AFL’s trademark application. Instead, the basketball team goes by the Tasmania JackJumpers.

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