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Bristol Bears - all you need to know

Bristol Rugby will become the Bristol Bears from June 1st 2018, heralding a brave new era at Ashton Gate. Here's all you need to know:

What is the thought process behind the decision to rebrand?

“During our recent history since the beginning of the professional era, the club have struggled to compete – both commercially and on the field. We have seen supporters migrate to more successful, local competitors such as Bath and Exeter. We recognize that our return to the Premiership signals a fantastic opportunity to reinvigorate the organization and to make it more accessible.

“In order to succeed in our mission, we must make bold changes to ensure we are prepared for the demands of this highly competitive, dynamic environment. We trust the vision and believe in it. The club and the Lansdown family are firmly invested in making Bristol Bears successful and are committed for the long-term to help the Bears become Champions Cup winners.”

Why the name: Bristol Bears Rugby Club?

“The bear is emblematic of leadership, of strength and confidence, of standing against adversity and taking action. This animal is feared and admired for its power. Its presence inspires respect.

“Since the move to Ashton Gate, we have experienced a significant increase in new supporters and new revenues from businesses and commercial partners across the region. We need to do more. The ambition is to see 27,000 supporters at Ashton Gate. To achieve this, we must appeal to a new fanbase. We believe the Bristol Bears brand will open up new markets and be commercially appealing to stakeholders.

“We value each and every one of our supporters and we understand that this decision will divide opinion. But we all want the same thing for Bristol: success on the field and a strong, sustainable club off it with capacity attendances at Ashton Gate. We cannot tread water and hope it happens, we must be bold and trust in our vision and our long-term strategy to create success.

Is the club losing its identity?

“Not at all, we are evolving. We respect the proud heritage and traditions of the club, but also the values of rugby union. Following supporter feedback, we have taken great steps to improve the matchday experience at Ashton Gate for the 2018/19 season, as well as continuing to develop our links with the local community and combination clubs.

“We have established the ‘Clubhouse’ at Ashton Gate, where fans can congregate after a game and meet players and coaches. Regular FAN meetings will be set up, including an email address to voice any concerns. We are establishing an area for memorabilia at our home of Ashton Gate.

“For more information about what we are doing to improve your experience with Bristol Bears, click here.”

Why has the decision been made to do this now?

“The vision set by the club: ‘To Inspire Our Community Through Rugby Success’ is focused on Bristol Bears achieving Champions Cup success, creating a pathway for England players and having a core of homegrown players. With Pat Lam at the helm and a young, hungry squad who are capable of delivering the most exciting rugby in our history, we are on the brink of a hugely special period for the club. We must capitalize on it and not let it slip, something that the club has been guilty of many times in the past twenty years. We believe that this rebranding process will be the catalyst for long-term success for Bristol Bears.

“Steve Lansdown and Bristol Sport have provided us with a unique opportunity, one that this club has never had before: to be a Champions Cup winning team. We must celebrate the exciting direction that we are embarking upon. We want you to stay with us and have faith in the process, as we do.”

How is the commercial landscape of rugby changing?

“Premiership Rugby is fast becoming a global game, with the US and Asia markets rapidly expanding and opening up exciting new opportunities in media and sponsorship. We recognize the potential of this new platform and how it can accelerate our ambition to be a Champions Cup winning organisation.

“With fixtures now taking place outside of the UK and a regular audience of over 1.25m people watching Premiership Rugby across the world, we have a significant chance to cement the iconic Bristol Bears vision as one of the leading brands in world rugby.”

How will Bristol Bears be able to achieve success when we haven’t previously?

“We believe that the clarity of vision will drive the ambition. We are working hard with our award-winning community foundation to engage with local schools and clubs and our Academy has its biggest ever intake of players. We have developed strong links with our combination clubs and, during the 2017/18 season, the club welcomed a record number of season card holders. By continuing to engage with our city and strengthening our roots in our community, we are confident that we will continue to grow our brand as the Bears.

“On field, we have attracted some of the best players in the world to the club, who can act as mentors for our core of young Bristolians. We are a younger squad than ever before with a focus on English-qualified talent. Coupled with a world-class coaching team, we are targeting success in the top flight and European competition.

“Remember, when the move to Ashton Gate was first revealed, some of our supporters refused to accept it would be a success. In reality, it’s accelerated the progress of the club and helped attract major commercial investment and international quality players. We are confident this rebranding will have the same positive impact.”

When will the changes take place?

“The changes will commence from Friday, 1st June. Until then, the club remain as Bristol Rugby. Once preparations begin for the 2018/19 season and the players return for the pre-season campaign, we will relaunch as Bristol Bears. This is not a short-term fix like the Shoguns experiment, but instead we see this rebrand as breaking the mould, and acting as a catalyst in kick-starting our journey to creating success.”