Royal & SunAlliance: Think global, go global

TX text introJust textRoyal & SunAlliance (RSA) is looking to prove there is more to the general insurer than MoreThan, its UK direct brand, with plans to appoint a global advertising agency

Royal & SunAlliance (RSA) is looking to prove there is more to the general insurer than MoreThan, its UK direct brand, with plans to appoint a global advertising agency. RSA is plotting an overhaul of its brand to give it more corporate and consumer visibility and reflect its “ambitions” (MW last week).

It is a radical change for the insurer, which spends big money on individual brands, but virtually nothing, in the UK at least, on the corporate moniker.

There is a new-found confidence at RSA, say analysts, who point out that the global strategy is being pursued by many of its biggest rivals.

Even Norwich Union, the Aviva-owned UK brand, is under threat. Chief executive Andrew Moss, who started just days ago, is mooting axing the historical NU in favour of the more corporate parent brand Aviva – a move he feels would boost the company’s global recognition.

One observer points to the Eagle Star brand being axed in favour of the umbrella brand Zurich, while others, such as Axa, have constantly striven to sell the parent brand. In banking, strategies such as Santander’s, to roll out the global brand in favour of existing local brands (except, for the time being, Abbey in the UK), are becoming more common.

As one industry source says: “It’s all about conglomeration of brand, especially on a global basis.” 

Meanwhile, American International Group (AIG) announced its intention to become a global brand with a £56.5m four-year shirt sponsorship deal with Manchester United, whose army of loyal fans extend as far as emerging markets like China.

Review process
The RSA review is being led by group strategy, marketing and customer director Clare Salmon, who was appointed in May, as revealed on

It follows the four-year turnaround plan executed by group chief executive Andy Haste – who was appointed in 2003 – which has impressed analysts.

According to Roman Gizdyn, an analyst at Oriel Securities, Haste transformed the group from being a business on the cusp of bankruptcy to one on the “front foot”.

“It was a business that was on the brink and got rescued by the current management,” says Gizdyn. “What we are looking at now is the next phase and growth, particularly in emerging markets. They’re going in the right direction. Certainly they’re more expansive, more confident and the risk of going bankrupt is behind them.” 

But Gizdyn questions whether RSA can call itself global without an American presence after the company offloaded its flagging US operation as part of the turnaround plans.

Salmon herself admits that the brand perception across the 127 countries in which it operates fails to reflect the “scale, ambition and competence” of the group.

Rival Zurich underwent a similar transformation several years ago, resulting in a global advertising campaign breaking 18 months ago.

UK retail managing director Mark Searles was brought in as UK marketing director in 2005 to help orchestrate that push. He says that as a “totally” global company, it needed consistent brand values. Zurich is in the process of “crunching” its individual brands down to one.

He continues: ”If you are operating in that spread of countries and truly want to be a global player, rather than a national player – or group of national players – there has to be a strength and commonality of brand.”

MoreThan and its Scandinavian counterparts Codan and Trygg Hansa will undoubtedly remain, but the creation of a global marketing strategy may well see a new dawn for an insurer which first opened for business in 1710 as The Sun.

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