Corporate Branding Meets Dictator’s Demise

Rebel wearing Yankee baseball cap

One of the big news stories of this past week was the killing of the Libyan dictator, Moammar Gadhafi.  On Wednesday, Oct. 19, after nearly 42 years of a brutal reign, Col. Moammar Gadhafi was gunned down in the Libyan city of Sirte reportedly by a rebel who was wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap.  Mohammed El Bibi , the rebel in question, was also reported by the BBC to have been wearing a blue t-shirt with the words “I Love You” in red on the front.  Other than the obvious political implications, what is the significance of such media exposure from a corporate branding perspective?  I believe you couldn’t pay for that kind of exposure even if you wanted to.  While it is possible that El Bibi is a New York Yankee fan, it is more probable that the Yankee brand goes beyond the baseball team, but extends to “Americana” in general.  As President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton try to bring American-style democracy to the region, a rebel wearing a Yankees cap could extend diplomacy further than any formal summit.

Ho Kwon Ping, a recent speaker at the PR Academy’s Sixth Annual Conference and Executive Chairman of  Banyan Tree Holdings, known mostly for its ultra-luxe chain of eco-friendly resorts, declared his belief that “the packaging has come to replace the products.” He also further asserted that “credibility is the most important, but yet sorely lacking attribution to branding.”  I believe these statements are true.  Hence, the power of the Yankee baseball cap.  America has come to be seen as a “winner” throughout most of the world.  Ho believes a strong brand name and a well-defined marketing strategy are two of the many vital factors that will enable sustained growth and help a company standout from its competitors.

The New York Yankees project a strong brand name and garner a winning reputation as one of the most storied and successful franchises in baseball.  While Red Sox fans may beg to differ, the Yankess tend to represent “Team America” on the world stage.  The strength of the Yankee baseball cap would not be nearly as credible if they were a losing franchise.

Do you agree with this assertion? What do you think it means that Gaddafi’s killer was wearing a Yankee baseball cap?

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3 Responses to Corporate Branding Meets Dictator’s Demise

  1. smwillar says:

    I think that the influence of America in the assassination of Moammar Gaddafi is too strong to ignore. The fact that the gunman was wearing a Yankees baseball cap shows that our country is powerful in determining the outcome of highly volatile political climates and suggests that we can inspire people in other cultures to act on behalf of our own agenda. However, I don’t necessarily think that the Yankee baseball cap would have made the gunman’s act less credible were they a losing franchise. Even if the guy was wearing a losing franchise’s logo, it would not have made a difference because the act in itself made such a strong statement to the rest of the world.

  2. rsutherl says:

    I found this interesting, too. Is it impossible to know what a brand means to an individual in a different culture? The only thing I know for sure is that brands can have wildly different associations and lifespans in different cultures. I wonder if the Yankees meant anything to the man or if it was just the nearest available hat that day. Regardless, it makes an interesting front-page photo because there are so many cultural and political implications one could draw from it. I suppose a brand has hit the “big leagues” when it can represent an entire nation and its foreign policy!

  3. abwolfe says:

    Many people around the world wear New York Yankees hats without really having any knowledge of what the symbol means. Often, Yankees hats are stylish, and the logo is appealing to fashion with “N” and “Y” crossing. However, in a country like Libya, I do believe it was likely just a representation of America. Whether the man knew the meaning of the hat or not, he knew it was representative of America, and for him, that could represent something as simple as change. I don’t think the Yankees need any boost in marketing, coverage or campaigning, but I believe it does help show that America means more to the world than just being the “bully.” The hat represents hope and change, and that is how I’d like to see the world view America.

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