Chargers move strains fan loyalty

Any time a pro sports franchise up and moves to another market, it leaves fans fuming. Remember the Colts slipping away from Baltimore to move to Indianapolis in the “dark of the night?” Or when the Cleveland Browns went to Baltimore and left their loyal Dog Pound back in Cleveland feeling totally betrayed?

What about when the Brooklyn Dodgers jumped from coast to coast to live large in Los Angeles, or when the Seattle Supersonics devastated basketball fans in the Pacific Northwest by moving to Oklahoma City? The NFL’s Rams franchise may have moved the most, from L.A. to St. Louis and, now, back to L.A.

And now we have the Chargers. San Diego loved their bolts in blue, and the team loved the city … but they hated the stadium, and they wanted something better. San Diego wouldn’t cough up the cash to build the team a new-fangled stadium, so the team moved up the road to L.A. … a city that already had a (new) NFL team and also has Oakland relatively nearby. Chargers fans were enraged.

As San Diego fans began burning jerseys on video and raging online, the team prepared to make the move and then announced a further indignity. They would be soon debuting a new team logo to go with their new city.

That new logo, using an electrified “LA” as the base, is salt in the wound for loyal Chargers fans. They don’t want their team to move, and they certainly don’t want to be reminded of the move every single time they see the team logo.

It could have gone another way, because team ownership held the team for ransom, demanding a new facility to replace the aging Qualcomm Stadium. That park, built in 1967 and home as well to the San Diego State Aztecs college team, is a proverbial dinosaur by NFL standards. Ever since the Cowboys and now the Vikings revealed new “futuristic” stadiums, owners have been in a self-imposed contest to see who gets to have the best and brightest new tribute to their egos.

Chargers owners told the city to pay up or else, so city officials put a ballot initiative that would have paid for a new stadium up for a vote. It was voted down, and the team that called San Diego home for 56 years hit the road.

This is likely only the beginning of this sort of scenario for NFL franchises. There are several markets with aging stadiums where owners will want to leverage love of the “home team” against a willingness of the public to come out of pocket for something that directly benefits the owners but doesn’t do much for the actual community.

There is a tipping point, though. NFL fans are already disgruntled, and this season has not been pretty in terms of attendance, sales and TV viewership. While some markets have thrived, this has been in spite of growing discontent among the fans. At some point, love for the team will be strained too much by ownership groups, unless NFL team execs can find a way to win back the kind of “all-in” support they enjoyed in previous decades.

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.

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