Monday, July 7, 2008

Beachdogs, Thrillers, and Sharks: Why team names matter

I was disappointed to see Seattle lose its NBA team as I always enjoyed playing in SEA, one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S., in my opinion.

At the same time, I'm excited for OKC, a community that will really get behind its club.

One interesting note about the Sonics' moving out of SEA was that while the new owner retains the "Sonics" name and colors, he has agreed not to use them in OKC.

As a former minor league coach/GM, we understand how important a team's name is to its off-court success. Hey, over the course of my career, I've worked for the Beachdogs, Thrillers, and Sharks (not to mention the Kings, Grizzlies, Warriors, Hawks, Magic, and T-Wolves) -- and in the minor leagues I had a real interest in getting involved in the teams' uniforms and logo design.

Is "Beachdogs" a silly name? Of course. But it's distinctive and memorable, and it made sense for a new team in West Palm Beach, Fla., that was trying to build a buzz.

It wouldn't work in the NBA, but it ranked among the most popular minor league names/logos.

My father, who worked for teams like the Gophers, Patroons, Sails, Stingers, and Squires during his career, was a big proponent of having the name of the city (or university) where the team played on road uniforms.

On the home uniforms, he liked having the team's nickname. He felt it was important to represent the city or school at road games.

It bothers me when a university is playing on the road and has its nickname on the front of its jerseys instead of the name of the school. I think it's a matter of pride. It's not about the "Lions" or "Eagles" or "Bulldogs" -- it's about helping promote your school (or city or region). Having the nickname on the jersey is fine at home, where the fans know what school you're from, but on the road, let's make it clear who we're representing.

If I'm a casual fan watching a game on TV and see "Tigers" across the front of the visiting team's jersey, I have no idea where that team is from. From a marketing perspective, that team has missed a good opportunity to promote their city/school.

In Rapid City (CBA), we actually incorporated Mount Rushmore, a big tourist attraction in the area, into the team's logo. The idea was to use the team as a platform for promoting the region.

As I've written about in the past, it's important for coaches to be involved in all of the facets of running a team. While coaching is their primary responsibility, they can help their club by taking an interest in marketing, merchandising, sales, community relations, etc.

So, what will OKC name its new franchise?