Social media is on fire with rumors of a new name for the Washington Football Team.
In a Twitter post on Wednesday, user Larry Legend believed he had discovered the new name of the team, noting that the domain name "Commanders.com" had been transferred from Namecheap to MarkMonitor -- the same company used by the NFL for all of their online domains. The transfer occurred at 7:34 p.m. ET that day.
A new team name is both a simple and impossible marketing challenge.
It’s simple because the goal is a team name consistent with the team brand. For example, a football team should have an aggressive and tough name because it’s a tough, aggressive game. The team name should also be connected to the local market.
Washington DC is known as the focal point of American power. Perhaps a name should be connected to governmental or military institutions? Military is probably better than government because the military is (currently) our most respected institution.
How about The Generals? Nah – it sounds like a team that loses to the Globetrotters. The Soldiers? Maybe a little too violent. Soldiers carry guns and all. The Commanders? That’s good. It could be a military commander or the Commander in Chief (more a civilian thing). Commander is also about leadership rather than just carrying a gun.
I’ve been doing a team naming assignment in class for almost a decade. The assignment is about coming up with a new name for a team that has found itself with a problematic moniker by accident of history and changing cultural rules. The focal team has varied from the Washington Football Team (and its now unspeakable former name), to the Cleveland Baseball Club, and the Fighting Illini.
For the Washington Football Team, the student suggestions come in categories:
1. Military Themes
Examples include the Soldiers, Generals, Admirals, Warriors, and Commanders. Commanders is a popular one.
2. Plays on the Team Heritage
A lot of suggestions revolve around the 1980s offensive line known as the Hogs. Hogs, Red Hogs, and even Pigs are common suggestions.
3. Tributes to Native American Culture
The third category tries to leverage the existing brand associations in a respectful manner. Wolves, Spirits, and Warriors are the prototypical examples.
Suggestions for colors are a mixed bag. Most students suggest keeping the Maroon and Gold. A few suggest moving to Red, White, and Blue.
So creating a new team name is straightforward. Students often come up with the same names in two hours as the creative consultants take two years to do.
But, team names are also incredibly challenging. For example, is anyone enthralled by the “Commanders”? The name makes sense, but it feels like it came from a focus group.
It’s an easy marketing project that’s almost impossible to do well.
I think the team stumbled into something near perfect with the Washington Football Team. It avoids future controversy. Perhaps the culture turns against the military. There was a vicious turn against police in 2020, and those old enough to get an AARP card remember the post-Viet Nam period when the military was less than popular. The Washington Football Team also has a sorta cool Euro vibe as it sounds like a soccer team. It’s unique in the big American leagues. It was a name that could have been developed over time. It’s also fun to call them the WFTs or WTFs, depending on the way the game or draft or free-agency is going.
Note: I realize that George Washington is increasingly controversial. The team could switch the name to any new name for the city. If we get to the point where Washington is banned, we are living in a whole new world, and the football team name is likely irrelevant.
To close - a google image search of Commanders as a team name: