Whether or not the Crusaders change their name is expected to be known in the next few weeks.
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and Crusaders board members are closing in on a decision, which will conclude the brand review the Christchurch-based franchise committed to in June.
The looming announcement will reveal what the team will be called from 2021, and the new logo to replace the one already scrapped by the Crusaders.
Regardless of what decision is made, the “Crusaders” name will remain in 2020, the final year before Super Rugby re-launches as a 14-team competition, and the expiry of the Crusaders’ current license agreement with NZR.
“Like all good things, there has been a bit of constructive tension and different opinions around the table, but it’s as joint as you could get it to be,” Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge told Stuff.
The Crusaders’ board discussed a future brand review in 2017, but it was accelerated after some directed flak at the team for their name and branding in the aftermath of the March 15 Christchurch mosque shootings.
Mansbridge gave nothing away when questioned on the future of the name the franchise has won a record 10 Super Rugby titles under, but confirmed a new logo was a certainty.
The team will play under a “holding brand” next year. Gone is the knight and sword, replaced solely by the “Crusaders” wordmark.
“It is time to evolve. Whether or not March 15 happened,” Mansbridge said.
The Crusaders’ boss has repeatedly stressed the terrorist attack and the team should not be linked, which many have done due to the centuries-old Crusades, bloody medieval conflicts between Muslims and Christians.
However, since March 15, the Crusaders have distanced themselves from the medieval fighter definition of their name, instead aligning themselves with the meaning which is to crusade for good.
Before they committed to the ongoing brand review, NZR and the Crusaders instructed Research First to seek feedback and provide recommendations on the team’s name and brand.
Mansbridge would not reveal figures, but said the process had been costly, despite NZR forking out for half of it.
“NZ Rugby, obviously, own the brand but the investment locally has been more significant emotionally, and as significant financially as NZ Rugby,” Mansbridge said.
Costs include paying for Designworks to create the team’s soon to be revealed logo, which will appear on the team’s merchandise from 2021.
“There is financial cost, plus there is the impost on capacity and time . . . it does cost some dollars and it does cost my effort and time,” Mansbridge said.
“And we’re advocating for a multi-use arena. There’s a whole lot of other things that are a bit more unique to this club than all the others.
“We have a lower yield and higher cost model than the other clubs because of our temporary stadium. And that makes what is a tight game financially even tighter for us, then you throw the brand piece on top and it’s made it a challenge.”
In addition to confirming a new logo was a given beyond next year, Mansbridge said the team’s horses, which were temporarily scrapped before returning in a different form, would remain.
There were joyous tears when they returned to lap Orangetheory Stadium ahead of their home game against the Highlanders in June, when the colours of the Crusaders’ six provincial unions: Tasman, Buller, West Coast, South Canterbury, Mid Canterbury and Canterbury, were draped over the horses.
“I think there is custom and culture in the way we do things that we have to suck through into the future,” Mansbridge said.
“The uniform that they wore was different. We would like to recognise the six provincial unions. We would like to tell the story about our identity that we actually stand for – not crusading in a medieval sense.
“They will be there in some shape or form. We’ve had a version two. We might take them to another level.”
As for the name, which is most important to many fans, and the logo, Mansbridge knows full well the looming decisions would not please everyone.
He’s heard all sorts of views – many of them heated – the past eight months, including those from fans, sponsors and various stakeholders.
Not rushing into a decision was important, Research First advised, after speaking to a local Maori representative, and discussions have been far reaching and wide.
“I suspect we’re the most expert people now, given the breadth of perspective that we’ve been able to gather,” Mansbridge said.
“How do we help a community heal? How do we help a community grow? How can we divide it less, and how can we accept that we can’t please everyone all the time?
“How can we do all of those things but get to the best place, not the right place or the wrong place?”