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Rating:More Uproar in Store for Mile High? Not Rated 3.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

More Uproar in Store for Mile High?

Reported by Theresa Sim

Invesco Funds had to fight tooth-and-nail to rename Denver's beloved Mile High Stadium to Invesco Field at Mile High. Now that the Invesco brand is on the out and out, will AIM be the new name?

Consider this: although Invesco and UK-based parent company Amvescap have denied for years that they are phasing out the Invesco brand and the business behind it, Amvescap's actions over the last few years indicate otherwise.

But what does that mean for Invesco Field at Mile High? Should Denver locals start getting used to saying "AIM Field at Mile High?"

Invesco spokesman Doug Kidd said there are "no plans for change" and declined to speculate on the future of the stadium.

Recently, Kidd told the Denver Post in reference to the naming agreement, "[y]ou try to preserve brand equity where there is value."

Invesco still has a naming agreement with the field in place for another 17 years.

The question remains: does Amvescap think there is value in the Invesco brand?

A Long Time Coming...

Invesco, a direct-sold fund group, started behaving atypically when it added sales loads to its funds in the spring of 2000. While Invesco officials said the move was in reaction to the importance of advisors in the marketplace, sales loads put the Invesco funds in the same market with Amvescap's other fund group, AIM, and its broker-sold funds.

Things started getting ugly in June of 2002, when Amvescap laid off 115 people from Invesco Funds. Although broker-sold AIM followed with 122 job cuts in October, the Invesco group continued to find itself edged out of a place in the spotlight.

Also in October, Amvescap renamed Invesco Retirement to Amvescap Retirement. At that time, Charles Brady, executive chairman said "[b]y pulling together our like-branded businesses, we can simplify our company for clients and intermediaries, and gain additional marketing leverage and synergies for AIM and Invesco."

Then AIM Chief Executive Officer Mark Williamson delivered a decisive blow: Invesco's wholesaling team was merged into AIM's in March of 2003 and relocated to Houston. At that time, AIM employed 70 wholesalers, while Invesco employed 125 employees.

Not long after, Amvescap eliminated 20 AIM and Invesco by merging mainly Invesco funds into AIM funds. Despite these telling moves, Amvescap has maintained that they plan on keeping Invesco and AIM as distinct brands.

Troubletown

Invesco bought the naming rights for the stadium in 2001, after adding sales loads to its funds, but before eliminating its wholesaling staff, which would indicate that at that point, Amvescap was still partially committed to the brand.

The fund firm had to be committed to some degree, because the local opposition to the renaming of the beloved field was tremendous. One Denver Post columnist referred to Invesco Funds as "Infested Funds," while the paper unilaterally declared that it would not refer to the field by its new name.

That wasn't all: the fund firm threatened suing the Denver Post after one of its writers reported that an Invesco executive confided that the company internally joked about the field as 'The Diaphragm,' saying it resembled the birth control device. The threatened suit caused even more unwanted publicity.

At the time of the field renaming, Invesco spokeswoman Molly Cisneros said, "[w]e do not regret having done it and in our opinion it has not reduced the value of itů[t]he naming of the stadium is just a component of a much bigger branding campaign. When you boil down the price we paid on an annual basis, it's a very manageable amount."

And all this trouble for a brand that may disappear, if Amvescap continues down the path it started on a few years ago.

As one Wall Street Journal reporter opined, "[i]s [the lawsuit] really the best use of Invesco's investors' money? Come to think of it, is buying the naming rights for a stadium the best use of it?" 

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