Using a combination of electrochemical, spectroscopic and computational techniques, we have explored the fundamental properties of a series of ruthenium diimine complexes designed for coupling with other molecules or surfaces for electrochemiluminescence (ECL) sensing applications. With appropriate choice of ligand functionality, it is possible to manipulate emission wavelengths while keeping the redox ability of the complex relatively constant. DFT calculations show that in the case of electron withdrawing substituents such as ester or amide, the excited state is located on the substituted bipyridine ligand whereas in the case of alkyl functionality it is localised on a bipyridine. The factors that dictate annihilation ECL efficiency are interrelated. For example, the same factors that determine ΔG for the annihilation reaction (i.e. the relative energies of the HOMO and LUMO) have a corresponding effect on the energy of the excited state product. As a result, most of the complexes populate the excited state with an efficiency (Φ(ex)) of close to 80% despite the relatively wide range of emission maxima. The quantum yield of emission (Φ(p)) and the possibility of competing side reactions are found to be the main determinants of ECL intensity.