Dunk That Sh!t: What’s in a Name?
Chris Savoie (via email): If and when this CBA gets settled and if and when we get a local owner who agrees to keep the team here, what do you think about a rebrand? What would the name of the team be? Colors? Logo?
42: Fun question. I like it. We sometimes don’t have enough fun.
This question has been bandied about since before the arrival of the team, but I’m not sure there will ever be a better time to discuss this than AK50 . . . er . . . right now. This is a question best addressed in an egalitarian manner, like on a blog where every member can comment and write a journal.
When the team relocated here, blogs didn’t have nearly the penetration and quality that they have today, and when the team returned from their Katrina-induced re-relocation in their re-re-relocation to New Orleans, they were in the long shadow cast by the reborn Saints, both figuratively and literally, due to the Dome’s magnificent presence beside the Arena. An oft-overlooked fact is that the Dome gives the Arena shelter from the storm, as it was built with the Dome in mind when it comes to storm protection, a necessity.
Before we belly-flop into this pool of creole blue Jell-O, if you like the graphic, send some thanks to the nice folks who sell the shirt.
The Short: I prefer and anticipate no change.
The Long: This is actually a deep question. There are lots of reasons one could trot out for a rebrand, each with points for and against depending on the eye of the beholder. Off the top of my head:
A hornet means nothing to me personally here in New Orleans
We don’t want leftovers
A new brand can signify a break with the past, which is needed in this case
Let’s think about branding generally, then some reasons for rebranding this team, and finally brainstorm some possible rebrands, regardless of any conclusion reached earlier . . . because that is fun.
First off, a brand is a powerful thing. These things are built over time, and people often don’t notice. Consider the phrase “our brand of basketball” . . . do you really think of that brand the same way as you think of “Tide” or “Budweiser” or some other former sponsor of NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee, Darrell Waltrip? What about “Steeler Football?” What about brands that actually become generic like “Coke” and “Xerox?” Where I’m from, it’s not uncommon to hear the following sort of exchange:
Host: You want a coke?
Guest: Yeah, cool, thanks . . . I’ve been wanting one . . . Good party by the way.
Host: Thanks . . . been meaning to . . . What kind of coke do you want?
Guest: You know my favorite coke is Dr. Pepper, stupid.
Host: You drank the last Dr. Pepper, coullion.
Guest: Oh . . . then I’ll take a root beer.
Host: Barq’s or A&W?
Host: A&W is better.
Guest: Why do you keeps cokes you don’t like?
Host: For company . . . I’m not a savage . . . besides, I’ll drink Barq’s when I run out of other stuff. What’s the score?
You see, a brand is not something to shed lightly, nor is it lightly shed. At home, I still call certain places by what they were called 20+ years ago . . . Take a left when you get to the fork by Yum-Yum’s . . . Stop by John’s Curb and pick up some potato logs . . . I’m not sure slapping a new label on the team would have whatever effect that the postulated owner would hope to achieve . . . which brings me to . . .
Rebranding is a means? Yes, it is.
Then what is the end of that means? Good question.
An owner would want to rebrand in order to make more money. Le Fin. A rebranding would be hoped to bring some attention to the team, to energize some people, and get them to spend money or catalyze some socio-chemical reactions causing others to do so. I’m in, are you?
Is dangling a new shingle out and tossing on coat of paint enough to do anything meaningful? It can be. Companies do it all the time. Some changes are due to companies playing musical bankruptcies and the like, but sometimes they do this as they change market-segment-focii.
I knew a guy (he died) that legally changed his name when he became a U.S. Citizen. He was as nice guy, very helpful and humble for someone so very smart. Janis Drinks / John Dauns . . . Thanks, and not just for the semi-group chats. He had great reasons to rebrand, though if Johnny Drinks is not the best name for an old-school country singer that was just given to a person (think Hank Williams era), then I’m a carburetor. Other folks don’t rebrand when they get married or emigrate, due to an established publishing or entertainment career or somesuch, while others do so pre-emptively (John Wayne). (If you have time, follow that link, but we warned: it’s an emotional slog.)
So, yes, there are good reasons to rebrand, but the benefits must outweigh the steep costs.
Let’s see what Big Bill Shakespeare says about this.
Romeo and Juliet is a satirical study of love and its trappings, among other things, though it’s often taught as a tragedy, something I’m personally both outraged and mortified by. (To all academics: Shakespeare, Plato, etc. . . . all funnier than you can imagine, because you can’t imagine much humor.) It is set in a town where two powerful families are feuding, the Montagues and the Capulets. Romeo Montague is pining for his recent ex until he meets Juliet Capulet at a ball. At this point in the play, Romeo is in the Capulet garden, hidden from Juliet’s view, revealing himself not when she says she wants to marry him, but only when she offers “all” in return for him saying some magic words.
O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.
. . .
‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
–Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2 (The Balcony Scene)
Now, Romeo and Juliet are idiot children, and the play makes WAY more sense read this way, like they are pre-Emo barely-teens in some suburban nightmare of a subdivision named Verona. Nevertheless, the situation they are in is similar to the one I feel is constructed by the `rebrandistas’:
I like `you’, but there’s some baggage and it’s somewhat arbitrary. It’s got nothing to do with you and me, choices we’ve made, things we’ve done . . . it’s an inherited problem. If one of us had another name, there would be no issue.
The truth is, though many of us would like to think otherwise, there is a good deal in a name, at least for many folks who have a wallet that needs opening for the team-currently-called-the-New-Orleans-Hornets to be successful here or anywhere else.
Reasons to Rebrand
A hornet means nothing to me personally here in New Orleans.
Yup. The little insects mean little to me, as well. What do tigers mean to us as tigers? Tigers are damned cool, and my favorite animal as a child was a tiger, though this was more about the colors and awesomeness than LSU and the Bayou Bengals. There are no tigers around here, and I don’t know of any tar pits around to help us find some skeletons of the sabre-toothed variety. We like tigers either because of LSU, not the other way around, or just because they are awesome.
If you want to say a hornet isn’t awesome, take a number, but the franchise is not named for the insects, despite the logo. They are named after a monicker applied to a particularly ornery unit of men, “The Randolph Hornets,” Company M, 22nd Regiment North Carolina Troops, during the Civil War. Those guys took the nickname of Hornets, or had it foisted upon them. I think telling them you have problem with their nickname would be like telling this guy you have a problem with his nickname: Tiny. Yes, really.
As it turns out, that’s basically how LSU got the name Tigers. So, no picking on the logic there either, eh?
Even if we want to ignore the real history and the soldiers honored by the team names, instead using fake histories or just going on the awesomeness factor or feel of personal attachment, then we can change our name after the Buckeyes (nuts sit there . . . that’s it), the Lakers (those eponymous lakes, they are in Minnesoooota), the Saints (they really strike fear at opposing forces, do they, Saints? I mean the regular ones. . . remember, we are ignoring history and Pops), every Cardinal team ever, including the The Cardinal, and the Browns, who chose that name twice, even after the eponymous guy, Coach Paul Brown, started his own team in Cincinnati: The Bengals. Yes, really.
We don’t want leftovers.
In a perfect world, no, I suppose it’s no worse to have a `fresh’ team. Let’s talk about how hard that is.
Anyone know how we got the Saints? The NFL was ready to merge with the AFL (now the NFC and AFC, so we know how the story ends). The AFL had proven to be a viable opponent through head-to-head victories, such as the Jets over the Colts in Super Bowl III, and through major signings, such as LSU’s only Heisman winner, leader of the team to its first NCAA Football Title, Billy Cannon. So the merger was desired to bring those owners and teams into the fold who were denied NFL franchises.
Enter: The Longs.
Let me tell you, no one knows politics like Louisiana politicians. In the world of politicians, Louisiana politicians are the proverbial men, and the rest are the proverbial boys. The Longs are that much better again than their fellows. Huey Long was well on his way to becoming president over FDR (who ended up being elected 4 times) in the 30’s when he was killed. He was a populist who skirted communism and this was when Stalin was in power in the relatively new USSR, so that should tell you how popular this guy and his Robin Hood platform slathered in BBQ metaphors really was.
Back to the Longs: Russell Long was in a key position to allow the merger or not since the resulting business would constitute a monopoly. Hale Boggs did his share in the House, but make no mistake about it, Long was the mastermind behind this ploy. They allowed the merger, creating the monopoly, exposing the owners to the treble damages that are playing a part in the court cases today the NFL is involved in with the players, and, almost magically, the new league awarded a team to New Orleans on 11/1/66, All Saints Day.
We got the Jazz after we proved we could support an ABA franchise, the Buccaneers. When the Jazz left, it was mentioned that we could be awarded a replacement franchise. That never happed.
The stars have to align to be awarded a new franchise, even moreso these days. The NBA is talking about contraction. They just aren’t `making’ more of these. Anything we get will be pre-owned, cold A/C.
This is a non-option.
A new brand can signify a break with the past, which is needed in this case.
This is actually not a bad reason. Rebrands are expensive, but so is carrying baggage. It’s debatable how much baggage is associated with the Hornets compared to its positive history, but I can see how this point can’t be easily snuffed out. I can see a rebrand as part of an ownership stamp: Thing are different now. Besides, billionaires can kind of do what they want, yeah?
The other side to this is that New Orleans has taken in refugees and the unwanted for centuries. Why should that stop now? In fact, some could argue that when we stop doing that, we stop being who we are. Taking any of that negative baggage, moving forward, seizing the signifiers, repointing them so the signified is our triumph rather than someone else’s defeat seems like a much more satisfying victory to me. Absorb, don’t excise.
If a rebranding happens, I think it happens due to this last reason.
If We Re-Brand . . .
This has been such a long discussion, spread out all over world, really, I’ll not try to revisit it here. Rather, I’ll just kick off some brainstorming . . . I fully intend you guys to continue this.
First, we’ll need a name. If we look to local culture, we can get some inspiration that does not violate the first demand of the rebrandistas. . .
The 4 seasons – Oyster, Shrimp, Crawfish, and Crab: Nope!
Music: Saints kind of already did that. Can’t be a copy-cat. Too bad, too. The Barbecue Swingers would be great, complete with music and Kermit as a mascot. By Jove, that would be great!
Food: Do we really want to be represented by something that exists to be consumed and absorbed . . . then . . . uh . . . Nope!
Wildlife: We are the Sportsman’s Paradise . . . do we really want to be represented by a thing that we advertise, on license plates at one point, that we invite people to kill for fun and prizes? Nope!
What about really tough mean ones? Gators, then? No, for obvious reasons. The Slap-Marcus-Thornton-with-Pistol-Pete’s-decayed-hand half-time show would go over better.
Local Figures: Do you REALLY want to name the team after someone who you may discover has some embarrassing past, present, and future? Nope!
What if we named the team the Chris Pauls to show him how important he is? Well, that could work, but it’s got a huge downside if he bolts or runs over a nun in his car.
How about the 42’s? Now that is an idea that may work . . .
Mardi Gras:With all its facets, Mardi Gras surely has to have something. It does. The Krewe. It works on many levels. The downside is that it’s a mass noun and Columbus has a team called the Crew in MLS. At least we can overcome the mass noun thing by calling our players Krewe Members or something. Riders? Revelers? I don’t know.
The Krewe is the best I could do.
As far as colors go, I dig the colors, especially compared to the Mardi Gras jerseys. They are great for Mardi Gras and less than great other times.
I like the fleur-de-bee, but if we changed to the Krewe, I’d like to see the tragedy / comedy masks with a fancy-jeweled-gold basketball bordered by beads as one logo, basically instead of the dribbling Hugo. Keep the fleur-de-bee almost the same, but change his face to a tragedy / comedy thing, one looking each way, facing off, one with a basketball for the long petals of the lily, like in the triple threat position, but more abstract . . . simpler . . . no comic-book detail . . . graphic novel . . . sorry.
The mascot? Hugeaux?
Actually, I like the idea of a pair of mascots (biggerbetterfasterstrongermore!), one tragedy, one comedy, that can do normal teamwork mascot things, then supplement that with Abbott-and-Costello-type bits. Mambo and Big Chief? Mambo and Flambeau?
How about you? Think we’ll re-brand? Think we should? How so?
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