Tue. Aug 21st, 2018

What Sports Radio Stations Can Learn from IHOP

Over the past week, IHOP hinted that it would be flipping the ‘P’ into a ‘B’ and become IHOB. Immediately I checked the calendar. Sounded like a great April fool’s prank. But it wasn’t a joke and the speculation ‘B’egan. Would it stand for Breakfast, Bacon, Beer, Bananas or Bread? It has made for great fodder, but people have been talking about IHOP.

This week they announced the B is for Burgers. Certainly burgers are not new to IHOP’s (or IHOB’s) menu. They’ve been a part of it since 1958. Their new Chief Marketing Officer Brad Haley told Ad Age “One of the very first things we did was to gauge people’s awareness of burgers at IHOP. The awareness was low, quite low, I’d say. Even though we’ve had them forever, they just were clearly not top of mind.”

IHOP’s decision to re-brand got me to thinking, when is the best time for a sports radio station to explore re-branding? Brian Lischer of Ignyte Branding cites these reasons for a re-brand: (I’ll talk about each below)

  1. You’re failing to differentiate yourself from the competition
  2. You’ve outgrown your brand
  3. You need to disassociate your brand from a negative image
  4. You’re trying to connect with a new audience

Let’s start with the first rule.

  1. You’re failing to differentiate yourself from the competition

What makes your station unique? Is it a certain show, play by play, great guests? At SiriusXM we used to call it “cool shit that no one else has!” Whatever that is for your station needs to be front and center in your new branding.

  1. You’ve outgrown your brand

Your sports station has grown. Your initial branding as an upstart doesn’t fit anymore. The station is bigger, ratings are bigger, and the station sounds bigger. Bring in a new bigger sound to your imaging and change your branding lines. You can grow bigger without losing the edge you had as an upstart.

  1. You need to disassociate your brand from a negative image

I feel like this applies more now in the age of social media than it did before everyone was sharing their opinion online. We have all seen stations fire talent based on social media posts. Heck, a San Diego station never made it to air because of a tweet by its morning show host. The perception of companies has also changed, leaving many to investigate if prior associations which were once seen as strong still hold the same value.

  1. You’re trying to connect with a new audience

Typically in our format this means finding a younger audience. You may be doing great with Men or Adults 25-54 but lagging with listeners 18-34. In this case your new branding tries to walk a very fine line. Appeal to Millennials (18-34) while not offending your GenXers or Boomers (34-64).

Lischer concludes, “Whether they’re plain as day or hiding in plain sight, signs it’s time to rebrand can be just about anywhere. Often the first sign is that you’re wondering if a rebrand is necessary! With the amount of measurable benefits that come with rebranding, the investment is likely to pay off many times over.”


I think the key point Lischer makes is that if you’re thinking about a re-brand than you should probably go for it. Fully assess your strengths and weaknesses. Your new branding needs to have a new voice, a new logo, perhaps new station colors and everything needs to change at once—On-Air, online, sales materials, promotional items and event signage. There’s nothing worse than an on-air branding change with a website that still has the old branding, old logo and slogan all over it.

Bringing it back to IHOP’s rebrand to IHOB. When is the last time anyone has talked this much about IHOP? There are articles, blogs, and social media posts everywhere about it. Don Draper famously says in Mad Men, “If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation.” In this case, no one was really talking about IHOP—now everyone is. Sounds like a win for IHOP even if they don’t sell a lot of burgers.

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