SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) -Last week it was decided that there would be no new name immediately for the NFL team in the nation’s capital. They will instead be known for the time being as the Washington Football Club.
They are, of course, changing from a name considered offensive to Native Americans, but picking a new name will not be easy, nor apparently fast.
John Sternal of Merit Mile, a South Florida marketing company, is a marketing and branding expert. He spoke about the many challenges and considerations that go into such a decision. He says that the team’s popularity is one of them.
“Things are unique here because it’s a sports team, because they are not going through a standard re-branding, there’s a lot of highly sensitive emotional pull that’s taking place here,” Sternal says. “Some of their options in the near term, we understand that every branding exercise kind of have their own time line. The goal in Washington’s case, you’ve got to get it right. Don;t get a new name over the next 14 to 21 days just for the sake of having a new name in place for the start of the wink wink proposed season, considering we even have a season. It’s not out of the realm of possibility tha Washington goes through the season without an actual name. Maybe they just keep the colors, nobody is protesting the colors, they’re protesting because they don’t like the name. So, there’s nothing said that they can’t go through the season as the Washington Football Club or whatever. Keep the colors, don’t use the logo and then take a little more time in the off-season to really find the right name. There’s a lot of money at stake, let’s be honest, football is big business. You’re appealing to your fans, there’s a legacy appeal to this particular franchise, it’s always going to be one of the marquis franchises in the NFL, but there’s big business riding on this. You want to make sure you have the right name and the right logo so that it’s going to appeal to not only players and fans but also for merchandise sales and sponsor events and opportunities as well.”
“Listen,” says Sternal. “You need to listen to your community. And don’t be afraid to invite community leaders and influencers into your organization. I’m sure you’re going to start narrowing down your list of names, do not be afraid to invite these people and say here are the 10 names we’re thinking, what do you think, how does this resonate with you, how is this going to resonate with your constituency? Don’t make this decision in a vaccuum, don’t be afraid to bring the community in and even fans to be a part of this process.
WTOC’s Tim Guidera asked, “Do you have any thoughts on where they might go with this?”
“I really don’t,” said Sternal. “When you think of Washington history and Washington culture, from the land to the people to the political background, there’s many different ways that you can go in. I’m really not sure, this is not the first team in Washington that’s had to go through a name change. If you think about what teams have done, they’ve gone to mythical characters, the Wizards, so anything is on the table right now.”