By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor
Further opposition to plans to rename racketball as Squash 57 is surfacing in Yorkshire by the organisers of a popular racketball series aimed at grass-roots players.
The Rackets Academy, run by long-time Chapel Allerton coach Peter Edwards and his fiancee Elspeth Beattie, soon to be known as Mr and Mrs Racketball, are refusing to rename their series of racketball tournaments.
The new name refers to the diameter of the largest racketball available, and is designed to bring racketball “in-house” under the management of squash. It is also aimed at reducing confusion between UK racketball and the more established version of racquetball, which is popular in North, Central and South America.
Peter and Elspeth, who are getting married this week, wrote to query the wisdom behind the name change proposed by England Squash and the World Squash Federation.
Elspeth has wide experience of working in brand management and has many questions about the issues being vigorously fought by enthusiastic racketball players. She writes:
Squash 57? I thought it was Heinz 57.
What we all going to say now? “Hey, I am going for a game of Squash 57.” Or is it “Fancy a game of 57”.
Equally, do clubs with racketball in their title or promotions change from Squash and Racketball Clubs to Squash and Squash 57 clubs?
Are there now Squash 57 balls and Squash 57 rackets? Are the balls now going to be all yellow as the logo suggests?Will England Squash decide to reincorporate the name back into their title: England Squash & Squash 57 or are they in fact intent on just making it the poor cousin for good?
So, let’s go out on a limb here and offer up an opinion.
It is hard to understand how on earth they arrived at Squash 57 for the brand.
The necessary starting points for building and understanding brands is going out and finding out what customers like and want, so in this case players and coaches should have been asked these questions.
We play sport for the tensions and challenges. I cannot imagine that when researching players and coaches that so many spontaneously mentioned the diameter of the ball as crucial to their game, their enjoyment and their reasons for playing. What was the true underpinning insight around the sport and the players and coaches?
Could they not find out anything that would leverage the deep emotional connection that people have with sport, fitness and health? A brand should reach out and connect with people. It is a metaphorical story that constantly evolves. That means something. That has an essence and a purpose.
All I see is a logo and an identity, built on an attribute of the equipment. This is not a brand so why call it a rebrand? It is a renaming. Maybe just investing that money in increasing awareness and participation would have been the way forward.
Maybe I am wrong and maybe I have missed the point but, to me, it smacks of political discussions rather than a real understanding of the sport, players and potential of the game and what a brand should really be.
We already run a series of racketball tournaments and certainly have no intention of changing our series name to Squash 57. Our series are colour coded, such as Black Ball and Blue Ball Series. Similar? No, we run a tournament series under our brand which is the Academy of Rackets.
We are all about increasing awareness and participation in racketball, that is our purpose. But we are only a fledging organisation.
Next year we are planning to try to create more of a franchise model to get our tournaments across the country and also really start to push the ladies and junior series. Our silver series is already doing well.
For the ladies series, we are working with Price to develop a pink ball (same as the blue ball) and working with breast cancer to run it as introductory clinics for women.
We will see how it all goes. We want to try and ultimately create a modern governing body that does up to date events, clinics and so forth and also introduces relevant coaching awards.
Maybe, by supporting clubs, coaches, us and UK Racketball to develop the sport, and bring along the suppliers, we could create something great. Instead, the message we are hearing is this: Let’s throw thousands down the drain to make the sport look second rate.
Pictures by Elspeth Beattie