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The boys club. I remember when that simply meant no girls allowed. Now, it means a multitude of things, however the boys clubs that resonates closest with me – is a football club.

The Toronto Argonauts have taken a lot of heat in the media recently as they have released numerous players with very little regard for the personal side of business. From Khalil Carter’s public tearing down of the organizations loyalty to those without an NFL title attached to their name, to the recent publicly debated hot topic on Off the Record -July 10th, 2008- of Michael Bishop being put on Waivers – it isn’t looking so pretty. But does it have to? After all this is a business, and how many times while growing up did the boys club oust its members. Problem is, this boys club has branded itself as a “family friendly” club, and living up to that has proven to be a tough task during the start of the 2008 season.

Over the past few years, the Toronto Argonauts Football Club have stated over and over again that they are a family… right. Now in light of my current situation with the organization, I am merely going to prove that brand loyalty is essential in building a relationship with fans – those are the people that pay the boys salaries by the way.

Here is the simple breakdown. You tell fans that the team is one big family. They, resonate with this idea and in turn buy into the brand. From here, they purchase season tickets, team merchandise and even show up to team events. What does this mean? Cash for the owners, and pay cheques for the players. Now here is the problem with this equation. When you do this, you create a relationship with these fans, this is called brand loyalty. When fans start hearing that you are not living up to this brand, they no longer trust you. Not trusting your brand means not buying into the brand and so on and so forth. This means no money.

Not a smart move. Brand loyalty is organization survival. Especially for the Toronto Argonauts who have struggled with establishing and maintaining a good brand, the last thing they want is the public questioning their intentions. I would love to say this is just a game, but it isn’t, it is a business – and a personal one at that. The flipside to this is that you have a lot of voice boxes – players and in the CFL, cheerleaders – who don’t buy into verbal diarrhea. Releasing a player from a team who claims to be a business is one thing, releasing one from a family – whole other ball game.

Family – a group of people who are related that treat each other with a special intimacy or loyalty. (Does related by double blue blood count?)

Last time I checked, releasing players means releasing families or trading them off to another part of the country. That isn’t business, that’s personal. As one family to another, wouldn’t it be appropriate to sit down your player and let them know why they are leaving your family? Maybe too much to ask, but hey you were the one who brought everyone to the Sunday dinner table.

Currently this boys club mentality has leaked into the girls club. “It’s business, it’s not personal,” tends to be the mind frame running consistent within their head office. Maybe they missed the class on the Golden Rule, “treat others as you want to be treated,” but treating those who represent your brand with anything less than respect doesn’t cut it. Your brand can lose loyalty from within and in turn that projects outwards losing loyalty from fans.

This post is not to discredit the organization as a whole. I believed in this brand for two years. However, the intention is to be a slight wake-up call for whoever may stumble upon it. Brand loyalty is important, that’s why the real boys clubs do so well.

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