I tend to agree with Steve Davis passionate post against team re-branding. As a Dallas native, Steve looks at the re-branding of the Dallas Burn to FC Dallas as main example of how re-branding did nothing to expand enthusiasm in the club. Frankly, I think Burn is not a half bad name even if their logo was horrible. I take all of Steve’s points and think he is right to warn MLS clubs that think re-branding is a silver bullet. It clearly isn’t. That being said I think there a few MLS clubs that could greatly increase their appeal by being rebranded and apparently there is a team considering doing so.
1. Kansas City Wizards. Seriously, the idiot in the 1990s who thought “wizards” was a cool name and that teal was the new it color should be banned from all sporting events. I am not a big NBA fan, but I could quite easily be a fair weather fan for the DC NBA team – just as I got really excited by the Capitols run last year – except the Bullets, in the worst decision in franchise history, for some asinine reason re-branded themselves the “Wizards.” It is just an embarrassing name. I have a really hard time rooting for a team named after Harry Potter. I suppose I could get over it if I was really into the NBA, but I am not. Perhaps people in Kansas City have come to adopt having a horrible name as a source of pride. But you have to think a name that actually represented Kansas City would do more to advance the team in the long run.
2. Red Bulls. This is too easy and another case when re-branding went bad. Frankly I think the fact that the team in the biggest city and biggest market in the country is named after an energy drink is a disaster for the league. It looks amateurish and in general hurts the authenticity of the league and the sport. The team has utterly failed to dent the New Yorker market. It simply doesn’t seem that anyone in Manhattan has the faintest clue that they are even there. Lets face it, New York is a trendy city and the name “Red Bull” just isn’t cool – it’s unauthentic and forced. A new stadium and a better location will definitely help – but re-branding the Red Bulls would likely greatly expand the appeal of the team. And while I know Red Bull owners will never actually do this, having already passed up a huge opportunity to grab up the Cosmos brand when it went up for sale. Unfortunately for the league, as long as they are called the “Red Bulls,” this team will probably never capture the New York market in the way the league needs. (On a side note, I think adding a second team in New York (i.e. Queens or Brooklyn) has nothing to do with drawing fan interest by creating a cross-town rivalry – but is solely about the inability of the Red Bulls to capture the attention of the city).
3. Chivas USA. This hasn’t really worked, as the recent Chivas vs. Chivas friendly demonstrated. After all what about Mexican-Americans that are big Club America fans, are they going to root for Chivas? Yes, in four years Chivas have had a few fairly good teams, drawn somewhat decent attendance, and developed an intense rivalry with the Galaxy, but I think tying a clubs identity to its Mexican parent has injected an ethno-sectarian element into the league that both limits the appeal of the team, makes MLS seem junior to the Mexican league, and is frankly not the image that the league is after.
Chivas owner Jorge Vergara came into the league believing he could tap into undiscovered Mexican-American talent and told The Los Angeles Times, “It’s the Latinos versus the gringos, and we’re going to win.” Chivas Guadalajara prides itself on not having any non-Mexicans on its squad. This ethnocentric approach proved a total failure in MLS, as Chivas had a disastrous first season. They did modify and brought in more American players – Chivas USA actually has fed the USMNT its coach and a few players. But the fact that in LA Chivas became largely seen as the Hispanic team and the Galaxy as the white preppy suburban team, ended up sending a message that I think the league does not want to be sending. What makes this all the more stark is that they play in the same stadium. You could argue that this sort of intense rivalry – a rivalry that has seen some fan violence – is good for the league, a kin to the Celtic v. Rangers derby. But in my eyes growing soccer in this country is not about highlighting the difference between Hispanics and non-Hispanics, it’s about unifying and melting these different cultural traditions together to create a unique and authentic fan experience – this, I know, is vividly exemplified by DC United’s Barra Brava. If Chivas built a new stadium in another part of LA, I think they could broaden their appeal and be seen as less of an ethno-centric club. Relocating to a new city however, like San Diego or Las Vegas, would present a good opportunity to re-brand.
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