Can An NBA Rebrand Be As Simple As Winning?

Despite a recent successful and positive re-brand, some Hornets fans are hell-bent on a new image

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…?

Topics: New Orleans Hornets, Toronto Raptors

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  • lottoni81

    Excellent article, James! I’m a fan of the Hornets since the team was in Charlotte. So for me, it is difficult to accept a change of name and color of the franchise. And I agree with you. For the Hornets’ brand conquer the beautiful city of New Orleans need only one thing: WINNING.

  • daThRONe

    That’s the thing. We aren’t winning(enough). So if re-branding the team can light a fire under the fanbase and give them something to pay attention to I won’t fight it. Let’s face it the only thing people care about more than winning is something new. Had this been day one I would have said without a doubt change the name.

    My cause for hesitation is I have spent 10years loving that name. It has become my mistress(the Saints are my wife). So I’m torn! I have a draw full of Hornets paraphernalia that would be almost useless, at the same time now that I’m in L.A. I’ve had too many people confuse us with the “Charlotte Hornets”. When I where the Fluer-de-BEE people think it’s the Saints. I think this city needs a pro hoops brand that screams NOLA(and not those hideous Mardi Gras uni’s). I would suggest the “Bucs”, but that’s to much like Tampa Bay. So even if the re-branding name isn’t related to the region it’s ours and ours alone.

  • Chris_G

    I dont see the team been Rebranded because the front office is working hard getting The Hornets name out there with their currnet ownership drive. However If the new owner does want to change the name to something more NOLA related then they should because the franchise is all about the local fans and it will be a sign of commitment from the team to the city. Now can u guys imagine as soon as the owner drops the hornets, The Charlotte Bobcats will be hunting for their old name back. The Charlotte fans want their name back, they hate the Bobcats. Like alot of you i have been supporting the Hornets since the Charlotte days. There is history behind the name “Hornets”. The Logo, colours, past players, all the reason why I love the Hornets. If rebranding happens and Charlotte go back to been the Hornets I will find it very hard supporting against them. I would guess I wont be the only one, The Hornets carry significant meaning to me like alot of other fans.

  • lottoni81

    @Chris_G I love New Orleans. I have visited and loved the people, places and music. But if the name “Hornets” back to Charlotte, I will go back to cheer for the Charlotte Hornets. Nobody can stop the Hornets. People who cheer for this team since the 90′s do not deserve it.

  • daThRONe

    I want to see us virtually blow up the whole team only keeping CP3. So a new owner, a new small market friendly CBA and a completely different core team(with the exception of the franchise best player) may be the prefect time for re-branding.

  • daThRONe

    I like the way New Orleans Souls’ sound. Maybe me the colors could be white and gold.

  • Pingback: Can An NBA Rebrand Be As Simple As Winning? – Swarm and Sting | Tiffanirobin.com Blogs

  • JamesGrayson

    @daThRONe I’ll put it to you this way. If we rebrand it’s not going to solve our issues at heart. It starts with management which has been changed, it starts with roster moves which hopefully will come, it’s with making a concerted effort to put yourself out there in the community, which they are doing.

    If we rebrand to, let’s say, the Krewe (which I’ve heard mentioned before) it’s not going to change people. It’s going to turn as many people off the team as it would bring more people in. Those who’ve invested so much into the Hornets brand would likely stop following the team. PLUS if the “Krewe” goes .300 in their first three seasons or something, it’s going to look like a miserable failure.

    The Hornets brand can work, people just need to get over the fact it doesn’t DIRECTLY have anything to do with NOLA.

  • daThRONe

    @JamesGrayson No doubt rebranding is a gimmick, but sometimes gimmick work. I will say this outside of the people thats in love with the name I don’t see this backfiring. If we give the name back to Charlotte and choose a name more meaningful to the area even if we suck the purpose was to pick s name meaningful. Let’s face it people love hype. Why do you think pro wrestlers change personas so much.LOL

    I don’t see any of the local fans being turned off by this. And paraphernelia sells would be really high. I would really miss Hugo though.

  • JamesGrayson

    @daThRONe Well I can tell you that you’d lose the entire international fan base if the team was to rebrand to something else.

    Believe it or not, but the Hornets brand is actually adored worldwide. I know a lot of local fans might not realise it, but it’s the truth. I know there’s a few fans in New Orleans that desperately want to get rid of the Hornets name, but it’s likely that you probably wouldn’t have me as a fan if the Hornets brand didn’t exist (or if it went back to Charlotte)

  • Chris_G

    @JamesGrayson@daThRONe The Hornets have had a big International fan base since the early 90′s. They probably rank in the top 5 in the league for International supporters. I can tell you alot of Hornets Merchendise is sold in Australia. Heck! I was in Egypt last year and I saw a few guys wearing a Chris Paul Jersey. Like Grayson says, you would lose the International fan base. And If Charlotte change back to the Hornets again you would also start to lose the US fan base outside of New Orleans , Particularly those who have supported the team since the Charlotte days.

  • daThRONe

    @JamesGrayson I consider this a win-win. I love the color scheme which has been the only slight change to make the Hornets more NOLA. But being one of the rare NOLA sports fan posting here consistently(recently). Let me say it’s a bit of a slap in the face after 10years of being the NOLA Hornets some people see us as “Charlotte Hornets”. I don’t think any other franchise has that issue.

    But like I said this is a win-win for me. :)

  • JamesGrayson

    @daThRONe Well what I mean, with the article, is that winning fixes everything, that issue in particular. If the Hornets win a championship I can guarantee you no one will ever associate the Hornets brand with Charlotte.

    The only reason why people keep saying “Charlotte” Hornets is because of the days of Zo, Muggsy, LJ etc.

    The Hornets have really ever had ONE good year here.

  • daThRONe

    @JamesGrayson Yeah I understood what you meant a I agree winning cures all, but if we are going to rebrand now is that time. While we’re likely to start fresh in so many areas.

    Once again I see this as win-win for me either way i’ll take something positive away from it.