Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, opened the International Trademark Association’s Annual Meeting with an eye-opening look at how to build a global brand.
Jones, whose background is in the oil and gas industry, opened with the story of how he came to own the Cowboys at a time when the National Football League (NFL) was lagging behind sports such as basketball, and the Cowboys themselves were losing $1 million a month. Meanwhile, the city of Dallas was struggling too.
The team was put up for sale and he pounced, fulfilling a life-long dream in the process. Jones admitted that he overpaid at the time, but his experience in oil and gas had taught him that “the times I overpaid … I did well".
The questions Jones faced on taking over were “Where’s the value? … Where’s something you can monetise?”
The answer, of course, was the Dallas Cowboys brand. “The brand … the way of life … was not being exploited,” he said. But he was convinced “you could go to town with this brand”, and doing that meant sponsorship.
He began a branding push using the Cowboys’ marks and logos, but faced opposition from the NFL, which filed a $300 million lawsuit to prevent Jones using the marks and logos independently of the league. The Cowboys countersued, and, Jones said, “we ironed it out quickly … we agreed to what we have in place today, which is that every team gets to use its own marks and logos".
Additionally, the publicity that came with the lawsuits gave a boost to the Cowboys brand, “so it was worth the fight”, Jones said.
Today, the Dallas Cowboys in the most successful brand in the game, despite a playing record since the team’s last Super Bowl victory in 1995 that is less than spectacular.
“We are still the number one team in television; we still lead all sports teams in memorabilia sales, we’ve sold 25 percent of all memorabilia sales that’s ever been sold in the NFL,” Jones said.
Cowboy Stadium provides the “real meat on the bone to get them talking". Jones even said that he would have taken a loss of something like $12 million in order to stage a proposed (and as yet unfulfilled) boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather just to enhance the “aura” of the stadium.
Partnerships and sponsorship agreements with Pepsi, Nike and many others have kept the brand visible, while a Thanksgiving-focussed Red Kettle campaign with the Salvation Army makes the brand look good at the same time as reaching between 60 and 70 million people on Thanksgiving weekend.
“What you can do is use all of this visibility … and create some controversy,” Jones said. “As long as you can keep them talking … our record would show you can stay at the top.”
As for the future, Jones may look at a way of developing naming rights for the stadium by buying a company specifically for that purpose, in order to cross promote the Cowboy brand to its best advantage. “It’s still about the intellectual value of the brand,” he said.
Jones left the auditorium with his “five things that make a good salesman".
Number one, he said, is “ask for the money … and I forget the other four".
This article was first published on 06 May 2013 in World IP Review
Dallas Cowboys, INTA 2013, Jerry Jones, NFL