Something that strikes me as particularly odd in the sporting world is the interactions between a teams brand and the team’s performance itself. The issue of re-branding is one quite prevalent within the NBA as a number of teams have gone about their ways to tinker with their name, logo and colours.
Recently such an issue is being brought up in Toronto and Adam Francis does a great job of highlighting this interaction.
To me though most importantly, we’re talking about a club that has made the playoffs only five times in its history, and has never made it past the second round of the dance. It’s the stigma of losing that’s associated with the Raptor that needs to go, and sometimes if you can’t make that change on the court (a 2011-12 season could be another extremely rough one for Dinos’ fans), you do it off while you wait for the on-court stuff to kick in.
The relationship between a brand and winning is the ultimate way NBA fans at large identify with said image, logo or colour scheme. By extension NBA fans also then can or cannot identify with the city of that brand. The Raptors are one example where by a brand hasn’t caught on in large part because they haven’t won a great deal of games. Does the “Raptor” have anything to do with Toronto? Not really other than it was inspired by Jurassic Park, but is it by itself a bad logo? No not really, it’s just they haven’t won enough for it to become relevant among the NBA landscape.
The New Orleans Issue
An issue of re-brand is one of veracious debate amongst New Orleanian circles. The name “Hornets” was taken from the Charlotte Hornet days where it was chosen based on a Regiment in the Civil War known as the “Hornets.” It was then transferred to New Orleans when owner George Shinn sought a new “modern-day NBA arena.”
For a lot of people, and you know who you are, the Hornets brand is very unwelcoming. It’s quite understandable that a bug doesn’t resonate with you in the slightest and doesn’t reflect New Orleans. But, if you look past the actual insect itself what are its true characteristics?
The Hornet is by nature pesky, protective, resilient and can immobilise their entire family to fight off any attacks. In a lot of ways these could be representative of the city of New Orleans. The city, in the NBA landscape is pesky, people just don’t seem to understand their culture. Folks are resilient, after the storm and they all come together to protect their own.
It’s understandable that a lot of people are pushing for a re-brand, something new, something fresh, something improved. But I don’t see it that way.
Take the Lakers for example. The Los Angeles region has nothing to do with lakes, yet the name stuck. Why?
Simple answer, winning. The Lakers won and the actual brand and its meaning meant squat in relation to Los Angeles. The colour scheme, the word “Lakers” was etched into NBA history and it mattered not that the actual meaning of the word “Laker” had nothing to do with L.A.
By the same token Hornets have nothing to do with New Orleans. No one that I know has ever talked about New Orleans then going on the describe it’s swarm of Hornets throughout the city. Yet, that’s not what we’re talking about which is why this brand-product relationship is that much more interesting.
That Brand-Winning Flavour
Professional Sports, particularly in America, is the strange phenomenon where a logo or brand can have no meaning to the region it represents, so long as the team is winning. This brand interaction is fascinating because so long as the brand is clean, crisp, fun and clear there seems to be no problems that arise to the fan-base at large.
The sourness and disdain held by some towards the Hornets organisation (I’m talking inside the city walls) is in a lot of ways produced by the uncertainty of the product even being available at all. A lot “football-only fans” don’t get it and don’t want to get it.
I don’t think it occurs to a lot of people that outside the city parameters there is a fan-base for the Hornets. I myself am a fan and have absolutely no qualms with the name. In fact, I love it. The NBA is fun, exciting, a little bit playful, a little bit childish in some ways. So too is the Hornets brand. People who don’t connect with it in some ways don’t connect with the NBA itself and the very characteristics that sets itself apart from other leagues in the world. It’s not traditional or even cultured. It’s crude, in your face exciting.
A rebrand is possible for New Orleans when a local owner steps up. But if the proper healthy management team is continued and the on the court performance is improved I see no reason why the Hornets brand can’t continue in New Orleans.
I mean, what do you want to be called otherwise, the Pelicans…?