What’s in a name? Everything. It is the difference between being known and unknown. It is the difference between having solid goodwill or a less than stellar reputation.
In professional sports, name and brand recognition is just as important as winning. And it is essential that franchises protect their name and brand. It is who they are and what fans identify with. Properly nurturing and building a brand creates loyalty and it can uplift a team even during down seasons.
Said another way, it is hard to root for a team when you do not know what you are cheering for. This is one of the many challenges of building an expansion sports franchise. Goodwill does not automatically exist, and it can take years to build.
So early this year when the then New Orleans Hornets announced plans to change its name to the New Orleans Pelicans, I saw the availability of the Hornets name as a golden opportunity for the Charlotte Bobcats recapture its identity, which has been missing for the last nine seasons.
Yesterday, Bobcats Chairman and majority owner, Michael Jordan, announced that change is coming and he’s bringing the buzz back to Charlotte.
The Charlotte Bobcats will be renamed the Charlotte Hornets beginning in 2014-15 NBA season. Technically, the franchise has only officially submitted an application to the NBA Board of Governors to change the team name and the request will not be approved until a vote by the 29 other NBA owners in July. However, given that the change could increase the franchise’s BRI (basketball related income), it seems highly unlikely that Jordan’s fellow owners would vote against the potential increase in revenue-sharing.
The cost to complete the overhaul is estimated at $4 million, which will include rebranding everything from uniforms to arena signage. Although, it unclear if the organization will retain the purple and teal color scheme, but if you ask me, the team should stick with its signature color palate (Again, it’s all about brand recognition). The team will not attempt to reclaim the Hornets history, but instead will embrace players from its past.
Now do not get me wrong, a name change will not erase the fact that the Bobcats have posted an embarrassing 28-120 record over the course of the last two seasons, which is the worst in the NBA. And changing the name will not undo questionable draft choices or alter the team’s ability to retain a quality head coach (the team has cycled through three head coaches in three seasons). And it surely will not fill an arena night in and night out. But what it will do is bring an identity to a franchise that has been starving for energy and direction.
Remember the adage, “You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been?” Well it applies here.
Once upon a time, the Hornets posted 364 straight sold-out games. And some of most recognizable and marketable players in the NBA played in Charlotte. The list includes Muggsy Bogues standing 5’3” was the biggest little man in the league; Larry Johnson, nicknamed Grandmama, once signed the most lucrative contract in the NBA and was the first to make bling popular with his signature gold tooth; and Alonzo Mourning, who was second to Shaquille O’Neal in rookie of the year voting. Now is the time for Charlotte basketball to remember where it has been, and build a brighter (more competitive) future.