Rams Must Reject Rush

Everyone’s talking about Rush and the Rams. But before I join the crowd, let’s look at this from the Rams perspective, the other brand in this equation.

Bottom line: this is about business.

The Rams must reject Rush Limbaugh’s offer for one critical reason: Rush Limbaugh brings nothing but trouble to their brand.

First, he won’t be bringing his demographic to the game, at least, it’s highly unlikely that he is going migrate over listeners to a sport -- particularly to a team— if they don’t already like it.

Second, and even more important, the first rule of branding is do no harm.

Rush Limbaugh is far too controversial. If he has already succeeded in making retired NFL players angry about his potential ownership, just imagine what will happen when the media runs an inflammatory observation. The press will be all over it and no doubt take pains to mention,  that he is a part owner of the Rams.-- And this is the critical point for both brands.

Rams' ownership is contrary to the Limbaugh brand because it makes him responsible for an organization, for employees, for fans and a whole community of interests that will effectively tie him down and change the way his audience perceives him.

Limbaugh’s not an inside-the-Beltway guy; he’s the court jester -- the guy who mocks those in power, who holds up the mirror to the arrogant and bureaucratic in our society and demands common sense.

On these grounds alone, he should stay well away from institutional sports. Becoming an institutional figure -- someone who has to toe the corporate line in a large and powerful sports organization-- is simply not in keeping with his free-wheeling, man-of-the-people brand.

Limbaugh is also forgetting the needs of his Target Market by taking sides.

For all the talk about sports being unifying, the fact is that team sports are about as divisive as you can get. People get euphoric when their team wins; depressed when it loses.

The man in the street has known this fact for years, but brain science is only now just proving it. Brain scans show that people’s brains light up like crazy when they’re watching their team play, but do nothing when they’re watching two other teams play each other. In other words, team loyalty stirs up powerful feelings.

What does this have to do with Limbaugh? A lot. Limbaugh is risking his audience, one of the most unified audiences in the world, by alienating all the listeners whose teams might lose to the Rams.

Sure, Limbaugh takes sides all the times, but he is always on the same side as his audience. He believes what they believe and vice versa. Owning the St. Louis Rams creates divisions that do not need to be created. Again, do no harm.

Great brands serve their Target Market’s needs first. There is no need being served here for either the Rams or Limbaugh other than the talk show host's desire to own a football team.

Ego is the biggest stumbling block for most personal brands. Ego destroys brands because it can lead them away from the work that made them great. In Limbaugh’s case this work is delivering his take day after day on the radio and Internet. Unfortunately, the same ego that rockets great people to the heights can knock them down again because they make the mistake of thinking that their brand can do anything and everything.

Wrong. Limbaugh is a radio host, he’s not the owner of a football team and, by the way, he shouldn’t be the judge of a beauty contest either.

And speaking of egos, this current debacle could quickly become a battle of wills. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have predictably entered the ring to protest Limbaugh’s ownership bid. With those two demanding that he quit -- and much of the media taking the opportunity to smear the Limbaugh brand -- it will be harder than ever for Limbaugh to walk away.

But walk away he must and if he doesn’t the Rams ought to. Limbaugh needs to stay above the fray and out of the huddle.

And remember, business and the business of living is always easier to understand when you keep marketing and branding in mind.

John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert and the founder and president, Marketing Department of America