The GWS corporate naming was certainly a very odd marketing ploy for a code that has long suffered an image problem that prevented it from appealing to the working class of Sydney.
Gold Coast Suns
North Melbourne Kangaroos
Port Adelaide Power
St Kilda Saints
West Coast Eagles
A marketing disaster on a par with AFLX
In the realms of international business, there are giant companies named with initials such as KMPG, JBL, DHL, AT&T and ING. In 2012, the AFL launched GWS in the hope it could join the transnational initial club.
The corporate naming was certainly a very odd marketing ploy for a code that has long suffered an image problem that prevented it from appealing to the working class of Sydney. In addition, it was odd that it choose to represent “greater western Sydney” since greater weatern Sydney did not refer to any place that existed in terms of identity. Ie, whereas people said they were from “the west”, that they are “westies” or from “west Sydney”, they didn't say they were from Greater Western Sydney or GWS country. In short, GWS was a name that existed outside any kind of community social psychology.
Aside from making it hard for fans to have a geographic identification with the club, the GWS name made it hard to have a cultural identification because it was not representing defined areas. As a result, the club couldn't associate itself with geographic or cultural stereotypes to build it's image and make it seem something other than a corporate fabrication.
It is not clear why the AFL would go for a corporate rather than community image, but the most probable explanation was that the corporate world of the AFL looked down upon Western Sydney so it couldn't bring themselves to champion its symbolism. For some, such as media personality and Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, Western Sydney was a land of falafel eaters that draftees would soon want to escape from. As he said in 2011,
While Melbournians like McGuire saw Western Sydney as a land of falafel eaters, people in Eastern suburbs of Sydney have looked upon the west as the region of the lawless and/or low class. In colonial era, it was the site of the battle of Vinegar Hill where Convicts launched a full scale insurrection only to be crushed. The western suburb of Blacktown was named after a school for Aboriginal children bing established on the site, resulting in the new school area being referred to as "The Black's Town." Further west, the Blue Mountain region of Penrith provided shelter to Irish bushrangers like Jack Donahue, the bushranger immortalised in the iconic ballad Wild Colonial Boy.
Although there is a lot of cultural character in West Sydney's history, in more recently times, it would be fair to that that there is a good reason why photos of the region (aside from the Blue Mountains) don’t appear in tourism campaigns for Sydney. In regards to environment, the Parramatta River is so polluted that if any fish are caught, they are really only safe to serve to mother-in-laws. In between the polluted rivers is what is typically referred to as urban sprawl. The locals are the type of people that the corporates in the east believed could be defined by the GSW initials of Guns Wounds Stabbings or Grog Weed Speed. As for whether West Sydney is a land of falafel eaters, statistics show that people of middle-east origin are constitute less than 5% of most suburbs. Admitedly, the region has lots of Ali Baba fast food shops; however, it also has lots of McDonalds as well.
As for more relevant statistics, those in the west are more likely to be uneducated, particularly in Penrith. In what might also be a blow to national pride, people in Penrith are also more likely to be born in Australia which almost suggests that being un-educated is an Australian thing. The one statistic that was particularly relevant for the AFL when it established the Giants was that the west was rugby league heartland. Specifically, there were 9000 registered junior rugby league players in the west compared to 750 in the east. By way of comparison, there were 10 yoga studios in west compared to 85 in the east. For a football code that is serious about growing itself, it was the western market that needed to be cracked.
Aside from from the colours and geographic area, the mascot was another possible avenue to build a connection with Sydney, but again, it seemed the marketers had their thoughts elsewhere. The mascot was titled G-man and designed to resemble a kind of cross between a 1950s door-to-door salesman and a pin-up boy for a toothpaste commercial. If the marketers had wanted a more accurate representation of the western Sydney region, then a couple of missing teeth or darker hair colour wouldn’t have gone astray.
Perhaps the only real attempt to associate with a Sydney image came in the recruitment of rugby league player Israel Folau. By recruiting Folau, the AFL was recruiting someone who was admired in the west (at the time.)
In some ways Folau was a success. The AFL trumpeted the fact that the money it paid him showed that the AFL was more powerful than rugby league. They also trumpeted that mentions of Folau in the media was worth millions of dollars in “brand awareness.” On the downside, “brand awareness” is more important for supermarket products that want to get known so that they will be tried out. Football clubs already have brand awareness, but brand identity is the key to get bums on seats. If anything, the fact that GWS could have so much awareness, but so few supporters, was a sign of just how much it had failed to build a brand.
After his first season in the AFL, Folau decided that he should play for more than money, and quit the sport. He said he just didn’t have the passion, which was a polite way of saying he didn’t like AFL. Sydney rugby league fans then became “aware” that even for millions of dollars a year, their heroes don’t want to play AFL. It seemed the Folau's GWS story stood for Got Widely Seen but then Gone With Sense.
Ultimately, the design of the GWS brand showed a lack of identification with the audience that the club aimed to represent. In many respects, the GSW brand was like prohibitionists trying to sell alcohol to a market they thought had an alcohol problem. For all its success on the field, GSW just didn't design an image that resonated with West Sydney.
GWS has self annointed themselves as the Giants that are towering over the packs, but they are not giants. In regards to their pecking order in Sydney, they are very much at the bottom. If not pigmies, then definitely dwarfs looking for a mountain to claim as their own but not really sure of where that mountain is or how it should be conquered.
With initials for of a non-existent place for their name and a non-descript moniker, the Giants are about as sterile as an empty room in a hospital. This makes the team very difficult to joke about.
The lyrics do seem a case of the smallest dog barks the loudest.
The presumption is that they will have a rivalry with the Sydney Swans once they are successful. Perhaps the Swans will be criticised as a Melbourne import and the Giants as the genuine team (that plays in Canberra and has initials instead of Sydney in its name.)
Their current clash is called the Battle of the Bridge, which is meant to represent an east west divide. It is a titling that has annoyed Swans fans as they point out that their name is Sydney, not east Sydney while GWS isn't a region at all.
In 2017, the term “Great Western” was coined in reference to a perceived rivalry with the Western Bulldogs. Both teams receive AFL welfare for survival and both aim to represent the west of their respect cities (and a bit more with GWS). Furthermore, both teams receive benefits that aim to increase their competiveness on the field. In GWS’s case, it is favourable draft and academy concessions. In the Bulldog’s case, it is sympathetic umpiring. In the 2016 preliminary final, it was the battle between draft concessions and umpire assistance, with umpiring assistance eventually proving triumphant.
Why kind of country has four codes of "football"?