SBD/May 22, 2013/Franchises

Bobcats Apply To Change Team Name To Hornets For '14-15 NBA Season

Jordan hopes changing the team's name will energize the fan base
Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan yesterday announced that the franchise has “made an application to the NBA” for a name change to the Hornets, according to Rick Bonnell of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. It will take “until July, the next time NBA owners meet, for a vote to take place.” Based on past comments by NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver, who will become Commissioner next February, there is “little reason to think the league would have a problem.” Such a change “can’t be implemented before the fall of 2014, as it takes about 18 months for the NBA to rebrand one of its teams.” It still is unclear “whether the Bobcats would also take on the Hornets’ teal-and-purple color scheme.” Bobcats Exec VP and Chief Marketing & Sales Officer Pete Guelli said that the team expects to spend about $4M on the name change, "a million more than it estimated several months ago.” That figure “reflects many new costs and some loss of merchandise revenue as the team liquidates its stock of caps and jerseys.” Guelli said that there is a “public misconception that the team can make back what it spends on a rebrand through new merchandise sales.” He added that the “profit off licensed apparel is small enough that merchandise sales would not prompt this.” Guelli said that the Bobcats “haven’t seen a surge in ticket sales since the news started breaking last weekend, but ‘there’s been a lot more dialogue,’ with the team’s sales force.” He added, “The phones are very active” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/22).

POLL POSITION: In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg noted the Bobcats last winter “hired polling firm Harris Interactive to analyze interest in a return to the Hornets name in Charlotte.” Guelli said that the results were “overwhelming.” Eighty percent of survey respondents “favored renaming the team the Hornets.” Jordan said he hopes the switch can “energize our fan base.” Spanberg noted the Bobcats “wasted little time seeking sales gains from the prospective name change.” An e-mail to fans last night "included offers for season tickets as cheap as $8 per game, with a bonus for buyers to receive a black Nike Jordan Brand warm-up jacket embossed with the words ‘Buzz City’ in purple and teal.” BackBuzzCity.com was “established as a website to sell season tickets” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 5/21).

THE NAME GAME: YAHOO SPORTS’ Eric Freeman wrote Jordan was “correct to note that this franchise will never catch on with local fans if the team doesn't perform well on the court, but that doesn't mean their branding should be regarded as irrelevant.” A sports franchise “succeeds when it becomes part of the local community, an extension of the same civic pride that drives other forms of culture.” Winning “certainly helps move that process along, but so can a sense of continuity and history.” At the same time, the new Hornets “can't appear to be a simple copy of the earlier incarnation.” The management team “needs to create something that can work in the future, not just a cute bit of nostalgia” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/21). ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell noted the name change “likely won't bring a significant number of people” to Time Warner Cable Arena, and it “won't even bring in much-needed revenue.” Rovell: “If it's money Jordan is seeking, he'll make much more by winning. That, or by continuing to lose and getting revenue-sharing money that will scale up to unprecedented heights next season as part of the collective bargaining agreement” (ESPN.com. 5/21).
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