Recently, the XFL announced team names and logos for the upcoming 2020 season. I’ve been interested in team names, logos and mascots for some time. I’m an Illinois graduate so I’ve witnessed the controversy and passions that surround a mascot change. In addition, one of my academic specialties is the study of brand-consumer relationships. There may be no more intense brand-consumer relationship than the connection between teams and fans.
However, while most of my work uses data and statistical models to study sports topics, the analysis of team names usually requires a less quantitative approach. With some notable exceptions the analysis of team names and mascots needs to be based more on theory and logic than on data. The approach I use in the classroom is to consider team names from a variety of angles.
First, does the name have a local logic? Many of the great team names have a direct tie-in to the local area or culture. The Steelers’ name comes from a time when the city was dominated by the steel industry. The Gators’ name highlights the wildlife that surrounds the University of Florida. The key question is whether the name provides a connection to the local environment.
Second, is the name innovative or interesting? Being distinctive is usually helpful in creating brand-consumer relationships. The last thing that a team wants is to be thought of as generic or boring.
Third, is the brand or name well executed? Does the branding make sense? Is the logo cool? Is the messaging consistent? This criteria is a little bit more of a judgment call that the others, especially when the team names are newly introduced.
The image below provides summary grades for the 8 new XFL brands. My winner is the Dallas Renegades and my losers are the LA Wildcats and NY Guardians. The Renegades have some nice local tie-ins and are set up to contrast with the Cowboys. This is just about the name. Taking on the Cowboys in Dallas is daunting to say the least. The Wildcats suffer from being generically generic (if that’s grammatically possible). The Guardians have the most confused branding. Is it about surveillance gargoyles?
The podcast episode provides a more in depth discussion.
Click on the logo below to listen to this podcast episode.