Making a Case for the Return of “I’m In”

Published: December 6, 2012

The future of basketball in our city is bright in nearly all aspects except one – marketing that gets into the blood of New Orleanians. This is troublesome considering the team very recently had one of the best marketing campaigns this sports fan has ever seen, the “I’m In” campaign. Even more troubling with that whole rebrand thing on the horizon.

It’s unclear why the campaign ended after 1.5 seasons. It could have something to do with the firing of former team president Hugh Weber, a huge proponent of connecting the team with the city. It could be because some higher up in NBA marketing said it was time to move on to the next slogan. The “I’m In” campaign is Jason Smith getting back on defense on a fast break. The “This is Our Game” campaign is Blake Griffith on that same fast break, laying on the floor all embarrassed and weak.

Pick any 3-6 words that have some semblance of positive energy and chances are it’s been used before. Here’s a list of some of the blandest team slogans in recent memory (for a much more in depth analysis of these and others, please consult this wonderful SB Nation post).

“Eyes on the Prize” – Phoenix Suns
“One Team One Goal” – Washington Wizards
“Ready to Rise” – Milwaukee Bucks
“We Work as One” – Detroit Pistons
“Come Together” – San Antonio Spurs
“Love the Game” – Los Angeles Clippers
“It’s a Pure Adrenaline Rush” – Utah Jazz
“New Game” – Memphis Grizzlies

“This is Our Game” is no better than any of those. “Our Game is Hustle” doesn’t sell season tickets. “Our Game is Excitement” might sell some single game tickets but there’s no real connection with the city. It’s like trying to sell an action movie by using phrases like “non stop action” or a comedy by saying “you’ll lol”. For a marketing slogan to work it needs to make a personal connection. What’s more personal than “I’m In”? What better time to bring back “I’m In” than pairing it with the rebrand? Bonus points: I’m In pretty much rhymes with Pelican.

I’m In = Who Dat: Regardless how you feel about “Who Dat”, it’s undeniably a memorable, simple chant that unites Saints fans across the country. Sure, it’s easy to change a word and use it against us (“I’m Out” or “We Dat”), but the pros vastly outweigh the cons. “I’m In” has already proven to be catchy in advertising and who knows, it could eventually become a chant. All we need is a couple of songs and some fan organization. Dropping a “Who Dat!” at the airport when you see a fellow Saints fan in black and gold will get you a “Who Dat!” in return. Who’s to say we couldn’t get the same with “I’m In!”? How about a call and response system with “I’m In” followed by “Pel-i-cans”? It definitely sounds cheesy now but try explaining many college football traditional battle cries.

All those stickers: Hey Hornets, there are still hundreds of businesses that proudly sport those “I’m In” stickers prominently. If you guys stop using the slogan I bet you those businesses stop too. Go to the print shop and get a new run made in navy, red and gold and as soon as that new brand is announced, hit the streets. Good luck convincing locals to slap up a new sticker every season.

I’m In Alumni: If you were on the I’m In commercials or billboards that meant something. There’s a couple different locally owned t-shirt shops that basically all do the same thing but Fleurty Girl got the nod to be “In.” There are other collectives that throw parties, dance around and wear costumes but the 610 Stompers are on the billboard, not the Ducks of Dixieland. There was clout associated with being part of the “In” crowd and being part of a special society is a big facet of New Orleans culture. Seeing the Mayor say “Our Game is Control” isn’t cool. Landrieu being all “I’m in”, in reference to supporting our local basketball team is. You’ll unlikely get Kermit Ruffins to convincingly say “Our Game is Commitment” on a commercial. But if you walk by him in a Pelicans jersey and say “Are you in?” it’s likely he’ll be all “I’m in baby” and pull out his trumpet on the spot.

Who’s In Contest: It’s not hard to make videos these days. An annual contest of “Who’s In” would not only rev up the fanbase creatively but it’s one of those two bird one stone type thangs that brands like Doritos have totally nailed. They have a contest to see who can make the best Doritos Superbowl commercial and they end up with a thousand or so homemade commercials that are getting shared repeatedly and that people like me carve out entire Saturday evenings to watch. This video, for example, doesn’t have high production value but the point gets across – it’s fun for businesses to be “In”.

The I’m In Awards: Every year host a banquet where certain city leaders and fans are honored for their contributions to the team. Make it a huge event that New Orleanians are dying to get into – but it’s only for season ticket holders. Imagine in 2022 when John Besh gets the “I’ve Been In for 10 Years” award. That’s a prestigious trophy he’s got right there and wouldn’t the other local chefs want to get in on that?

In 2007-2008 the Hornets hired Trumpet Ad Agency & The Ehrhardt Group who came up with “Passion. Purpose. Pride.”, in conjunction with the team’s return to New Orleans following Katrina. 2011 saw the debut of “I’m In” in anticipation of the team not having any marketable stars signed long term and needing to highlight the team’s importance to the city. It’s almost 2013 and while we have some marketable stars – the need to highlight the connection between city and team remains high, especially when the Pelicans come flying in. No need to hire an agency this time around. Just bring it back. Slap it on the side of the Arena on those gigantic (and wonderful) video boards and send your marketing team back out with stickers and banners.

If you want to take me out to lunch I’ll happily share my other 50 ideas with you – in return I’ll take a pair of courtside season tickets and let’s get a Hornets247 halftime show in the pipeline as well.


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