News broke earlier this week that the Sacramento Kings are working to sell the team and move to Seattle, where they would change their name to the Seattle Supersonics. The New Orleans Hornets have announced they will play next season as the Pelicans, and will do so with some pretty cool designs. Attention now turns to the Charlotte Bobcats. Growing up in Atlanta, I remember how much the Hornets brand was loved. With the ridiculous hornet mascot, honeycomb pattern in the paint, and Muggsy Bogues running point, they were an electric team with one of the most interesting brands in the league.
Back in 2010, Bobcat President Fred Whitfield said the following about reclaiming the Hornets name:
If that name does happen to become available we’ll research it. We’ll talk to our fans, we’ll figure whether we got enough brand loyalty in the Cats and decide whether we need to just continue to move forward with the brand we’ve built.
That’s exactly what they’re doing now, researching it. They’ve contracted with Harris Interactive to conduct the needed marketing research. If they were to simply ask a preference question in a one question poll, I’m sure the Hornets would win overwhelmingly. More thoughtfully, they’re using a long questionnaire–about 30 minutes to complete–with questions about brand meaning and how changing the brand would actually affect purchase intent of tickets and merchandise. They’re sending this to season ticket holders and Charlotte residents to get their opinion and learn if the costs a change would be justified.
It’s very cool to see how marketing research and sports, two of my passions, interact. Changing the brand name back to one that has emotional ties will recreate excitement and reconnect the team with the city, and surely they won’t burn any loyalty they’ve fostered with the Bobcats brand, given they haven’t created any. I expect that the fervor still surrounding the Hornets brand will convince the organization to make the change, even if they just redesigned uniforms and logos last year. Hopefully the research will validate that and North Carolina will once again be able to call the Hornets their own.
As bad the Lakers have been, this has been the best story in the NBA since the pre-season when I began hyping the Lakers for a title run.
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