The last rebranding of RSN was in 2000, when the company had more than 130 employees, owned a travel agency, had regular appearances on Headline News and the Weather Channel, and was getting regular fill ups from the seemingly inexhaustible gas tank of the Dot Com boom.
The rebranding targeted two goals: to reign in the massive variation in current branding (remember “the hurricane logo”?), and to set the stage for a multi-platform, multi-galaxy explosion of content into the world of the outdoors.
Based on the wisdom of the times (publicly announced venture capital x 2), the company was worth at least $60 million, if not twice that. You had a core of proven television success that was going to be amplified by the newfangled total awesomeness of the Internets. Look out world, here we come.
And then, as we can see in the rear view mirror, the bottom fell out. First came a plunging stock market, then came the massive personal and business anxiety that followed 9/11. As web money went away, so did web strategy… and so did employees. Myself included.
It was a nasty, painful time that saw the funeral of numerous well-intentioned outdoor.com entities.
But RSN survived because they were able -- like no one else -- to retreat to their foundation. They went back to the one thing that they always did better than anyone else. Destination market television.
If you live in an RSN town – Park City, Vail, Crested Butte, Sugarloaf or others – you know what I’m talking about. RSN has raised the quality of the local channel to previously unheard of levels. They didn’t do it by imitating the low budget small market content of places like Idaho Falls and Burlington. They did it by creating their own version of wicked outdoorsy television: snow reports in the morning, eye candy during après ski, mellow movies at night, and nothing at all between 10 am and 3 pm when everybody’s outside doing something fun.
And if you advertised on RSN in the last 10 years – you also know the secret: that TV exposure on RSN delivers a ridiculous value. It’s targeted and constant, constant, constant, and though it costs far more than a print ad … it’s far, far less than playing in the big pool of TV anywhere else.
Despite all the cash and hours that were spent on branding in 2000, the sad reality is that the weakness of RSN lies in the brand. While product recognition is superior (“I love that local television station”), brand recognition is almost non-existent. Would a skier going from Sugarbush to Lake Tahoe make a connection that the TV content is coming from the same place? Not in a million years.
Strong in operations, weak in brand … the delivery of a partnership with Outside Magazine is music to the ears of anyone who has watched RSN struggle to find an appreciation for their true value.
The Outside Television Network, as it will become known in 2010, is the rebranding that RSN needed. Not the branding that provides a new fancy logo and orb to drop into the lower third, but a branding that jams a stake in the sand to provide direction, consistency and purpose.
At the same time, Outside will get what they need as well. Outside will gain unparalleled access to television viewers in America’s best loved outdoor destination markets. Outside will have a kick of positive news heading into a dark Christmas for many print publications
Best of all, Outside will have an outlet for their content franchise, and it’ll be the right outlet.