A bit of bok, protea doesn't solve anything!

It's been announced that the solution to the ongoing Springbok debate is a half and half approach - the springbok emblem on the right hand side and the protea emblem on the left (over the heart, I may add). It may seem like a conservative solution to this highly emotive issue, but is it in fact the right one?
A bit of bok, protea doesn't solve anything! - Brand UnionMy immediate response is that this has to be an interim solution and not a long-term one, because it doesn't address the real problem, the issue of the negative connotations of the Springbok emblem. How do you rationalise introducing the protea as a way of fixing this mess?

Where is the logic?

Let me speculate that this is an interim solution (as I can't see it to be any other way). In a classical branding scenario, brand change needs to take into consideration how we transfer the positive equity from one brand to another. In transition stages (take, for example, when HSBC Bank took over Midland bank), it renamed itself HSBC Midland for a couple of months (just so consumers could understand the merger) and then reverted back to HSBC, with the knowledge that consumers would understand the joining of these two companies. So my question here, is the same being done with the springbok and protea?

It's not an impossible situation

Some fanatics may feel nauseous at the thought of carrying only the protea as an emblem, but this may not need to translate into the naming of the team. Take, for example, the English national side- its emblem is a rose, but it is definitely not referred to as the ‘roses'. The same applies to the All Blacks, a team synonymous with macho image and the ever-intimidating (well, it's meant to be anyway) Hakka. Its emblem is a fern! So, a solution where the protea is the symbol and the name is still the Boks- is not such a farfetched idea.

Why a diluted approach is a weak one?

Icons represent a set of values that are widely accepted by the intended audience. It is recognisable and has an emotive connotation. My question here is how do you merge these two very different icons into one belief?

In my opinion, the springbok emblem relates directly to rugby; it has a heritage. The protea, being the national flower (and far too closely associated with cricket for my liking), has a very different value set.

Either you need to look at a merging of the two logos, where the springbok somehow sits within the protea design, or a scenario where the team has a different name to the emblem that is worn on the jersey. What I can say with certainty is that, in the long run, only one logo that represents all the values that the team stands for will work.

Whatever the powers that be may be thinking, the blatant problem here is that you can't fix negative connotations by merely adding another emblem! I can't help myself; I just have to ask, “Mr Watson, is it easier for you to now to only vomit on one side of the jersey?”
5 Nov 2008 09:14


About the author

Anthony Swart is the CEO of The Brand Union ( in Africa. A deeply rooted African, with decades of experience in branding and marketing, Anthony has a passion for developing this continent and its brands, and a vision to help grow indigenous African brands to achieve their full potential. He has a BA in Industrial Psychology, and an MBA focusing on truth in brand promise. Anthony is married with three children, two rottweilers, two cats, four fish, a hamster and a Senagalese parrot. Contact him on tel + 27 (0)11 895 9300.

Wearing your bok on your sleeve-
Surely if the offensive bit is the springbok emblem or word, by having the protea on the jersey and still calling the team the springboks you haven't solved anything, let alone a branding issue.
Posted on 5 Nov 2008 16:00