Media: A Moment with Marquis

Imagine you are the proud owner of a 50-year-old brand. It has many loyal users; an attractive look and memorable music; popular affection in lorry-loads. What do you do next? Why, kill it off, of course.

This may not be the solution that most readily springs to mind, but then not everybody is the BBC. It has recently ordained the sacrifice of one of its most venerable offspring, Grandstand.

The BBC's reasoning is that Grandstand has lost touch with younger viewers, that it is no longer the definitive Saturday afternoon sports programme, that there must be a better idea just round the corner. The truth is, the BBC has given up on Grandstand because it has pretty well given up on sport - apart from a handful of "national" events.

The BBC, for which one could make a perfectly defensible case as the world's most creative organisation, has developed a slight tendency to give in when it cannot think of what to do next. It doubtless takes comfort from reassuringly decisive action even if the reason for doing so is not entirely obvious.

One Man and his Dog was another successful show that was put to sleep at the height of its popularity, though quietly resuscitated years later when it was realised that there was - sorry, no avoiding this - still life in the old dog. It is what you might call the Heinz Salad Cream syndrome.

And, let us face it, not all brands should live forever. There is no God-given right to immortality. One does not, for example, hear too many calls for the relaunch of Shake 'n' Vac or the revival of the Midland Bank "Orchard" account or, well, there are thousands more, equally deserving of eternal damnation, especially in television: please, no revival of Eldorado or Z Cars.

If you channel-hop on a Saturday afternoon, you start to understand Grandstand's problem. As I write, Sky has live coverage of a teeth-clenching Championship play-off between Crystal Palace and Watford, while Grandstand can only make passing reference to it - without pictures. There is live Test cricket and live golf from Italy.

So there may not be much wrong with Grandstand per se. The trouble is, there's precious little to fill it with. What the BBC needs is a clearer strategy for sport, not a clear-out of the family silver. There is, in marketing-speak, colossal brand equity in Grandstand. Is it really so impossible to breathe new life into it rather than consign it to the archives?

Otherwise, I am not sure this is not just another sad case of gratuitous and regrettable brandicide.

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