So Lots of rides on the Washington football team’s rebranding “journey” that Jason Wright, the president of the NFL franchise, announced last week as 15,000 suggestions the club has received from 60 countries and of the 50 US states were not quite sufficient. The only decision the WFT has made, apparently, is that the team’s colors will remain the same.
“Seeing the results of our scans,” Wright wrote in a letter to the team’s website, “we know that burgundy and gold are deeply important to people, so I can confidently say that the color palette will remain the same.
“Stall the cheers / sighs of relief,” Wright added, without the slightest hint of sarcasm.
So if you think you have a better name than Washington Football Team, you better hurry up and get it to washingtonjourney.com by April 5th. As Wright wrote to fans, “We don’t take this task lightly. Before we get to the name reduction stage, we understand what matters to you in a name. “
Nothing, writes Wright, has been ruled out – including the existing name itself. The Washington football team is the generic name the club came up with when it announced last July that it was “withdrawing” its nickname and logo, widely considered offensive to Native Americans, after 87 years.
The WFT won the NFC East in their debut season with the name. Washington played in a miserable division, lost more games (nine) than it won (seven) and was sent to the first round of the playoffs – admittedly by future champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – but a division title is a division title. Ron Rivera, hired a year ago as a coach, has a basic element if not a star quarterback.
So the Washington football team remains in the game. Keeping it would mean the franchise wouldn’t have to change its name twice in two or three years, forcing the more ardent fans to buy another new burgundy hoodie. and gold. The nickname, or lack of a nickname, is different for the NFL, which does not go for the singular nicknames – like the Jazz or the Avalanche – seen in other American sports.
So why change that at all? Well, consider two factors: hoodies and kids.
“I think they can do better than the ‘football team’,” Scott Rosner, a sports professor at Columbia University, told The Guardian. “It’s too generic.”
Rosner goes on to say that the nickname might stick around because it’s so counterintuitive and somewhat defiant, “It’s so bad it’s good,” he says, adding, “It’s just awkward.”
Washington’s football team is appropriate, he says, but is it really the best name the team can come up with? Maybe it doesn’t matter. “It all depends in this particular club on what the property decides to do,” says Rosner, referring to Daniel Snyder, the famous stubborn owner of the team. “I think about how long it took to pressure the team to change the name in the first place.”
Snyder bought the team in 1999, but kept the old name despite being considered a racist insult for decades. He grew up as a fan of the team, as he explained, and the nickname, colors, logo and fight song had been part of the team’s identity since the 1930s. Team ”replaced the nickname last year because the club had to use something.
“WFT was able to test a brand in real time and see if it got stuck,” Joe Favorito, longtime sports marketing consultant and professor at Columbia, told The Guardian in an email. “And so far that’s associated with a thriving team and a changing image in DC.
“Now if they stay with WFT, why does that mean they can’t have a mascot either?” Most clubs have a nickname and all of the parts just aren’t part of their official name so it’s not that crazy and they’ve already had a year of equity.
And what a crazy year. Due to Covid-19 protocols, Washington has performed in front of 3,000 home fans – all season. They played Tampa Bay in their first home playoff game in five years, before any fans in January at FedEx Field.
“The days of ‘we have to do it this way’ are really over,” says Favorito. “While we can’t dismiss the whole lore, what we’ve learned over the past year is that the way things have always been done doesn’t hold up as much, especially with young fans who think , act and engage differently. The real power of their brand isn’t in the second name, it’s in the first: Washington. It’s the name that has global resonance, and putting Washington forward the nickname is a distant second in importance. ”
There are professional sports franchises in North America without even a singular nickname like Heat or Dream or Sky. Take Major League Soccer, which in recent years has moved away from traditional nicknames for more common titles in Europe: think Atlanta United, Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC.
And, besides, Washington doesn’t have to have a nickname. Rosner says there are advantages to keeping the name as it is. But he also makes a critical point: If fans bought Washington football team hoodies after owning the hoodies with the old team name, why wouldn’t they buy some? hoodies with a third name? As long as they are burgundy and gold.
“Keeping the colors is a bit of a compromise: ‘We won’t forget our roots, but we recognize the need to move forward as a franchise,” he says.
Red Hawks or Red Tails, a hat with the old nickname, have been mentioned as possible successors, although Wright has mentioned with some intrigue that “many” young fans prefer Warthogs – alliterative with Washington and a play about them. “Hogs,” The longtime nickname for the team’s unglamorous but beloved offensive linemen.
“Is the warthog related to a desire to breathe strength and ferocity?” Wright wrote. ” Does she [or her parents] think it’s important that the historical reference to the “Hogs” offensive linemen be linked in the name? We want to get that second level of information and test it with other fans to get things done. “
The analysis will be crucial. Rosner says, also without the slightest hint of sarcasm, “It’s a really complicated process.”