LAS VEGAS – The eventual Las Vegas NHL team doesn’t have players. It doesn’t have a general manager or any other specifics on how they organization will be run.
Before the team picks all these important components it will need to come up with a logo and color scheme, which could prove vital for early success of a franchise.
“A systematic, inclusive process is key. No trial balloons,” said Matt Levine, the brain behind the wildly successful San Jose Sharks jersey/logo launch of the early 90s. “A franchise only launches once. Backroom decisions on name/logo/colors can be disastrous.”
Owner Bill Foley said he hadn’t settled on a team name or logo yet, though his West Point ties make him partial to Black Knights.
“We’re going to defer the team name for the time being. We’re going to go through the league. We have several alternatives and several different ideas. I love Black Knights, I’m an Army guy but maybe that’s not the right name for this team at this time and we’re going to have a number of presentations and proposals. We’re going through our local preparation process,” Foley said. “We would hope by the time the next season starts that we would have our team name, team logo and be ready to start selling some jerseys. We’ll work through the league. We know where we are and what we’ll be doing.”
The Sharks were considered the gold standard of jersey/colors/logo launches. When they picked their team name and logo, they brought in their fanbase with a ‘Name the Team’ competition. Though San Jose execs already knew Sharks was their preferred choice, they wanted to see what the populace wanted.
When fans came back with “Blades” the team considered it but ultimately Sharks won out because it was believed that there was a crime association with Blades.
“We wanted a name that lent itself to imaginative graphic interpretation and we wanted a name that couldn’t be shortened in a headline,” Levine said in a past interview about the Sharks.
The decision to choose the right color was also important to the Sharks, which is why Levine went to Neiman Marcus, L.L. Bean, J. Crew, Bloomingdales and Starter and asked them which color made the most sense. They all came back with teal, which was one of the best decisions the team made in their history.
“Marketing research (different methodologies for each) should be employed at each stage, reducing risk and taking the views of adult men and women, teen and pre-teen boys and girls into consideration,” Levine said. “What excites? What delivers the name best? What makes fans proud, want to be associated? Would be purchased/worn?”
The Sharks' uniforms were so popular that in their first year they were the second-most purchased major North American sport jersey behind the Chicago Bulls. They generated $150 million of retail which was a whopping 27 percent of the NHL’s total.
Kids all across North America associated with the Sharks.
“The San Jose Sharks were a huge success when they started playing, and that wasn't isolated to the Bay Area, in Canada you'd see kids walking around with Sharks jerseys, caps, shirts and I guarantee you it had nothing to do with any personal or family ties to San Jose -- 100 percent due to the logo and colors,” said Chis Creamer of SportsLogos.net. “My brother, 25 years later, still a big Sharks fan simply because he liked the logos and colors when the team started play.”
If the fans aren't involved with the naming process this could be problematic because it could hurt some of the buzz surrounding the group as it starts.
“Involving the market also plays a role here, and that's where I think Las Vegas needs to be careful. It's widely rumored the team will be named the 'Black Knights' because that's what the owner wants them to be called. Fair enough, he's the owner, he can do what he wants, but that's not exactly looking at the potential local fanbase and seeing what they might like, they're the ones who need to buy into this thing in order to make it work long-term,” Creamer said. “Most new franchises survey the fans, allow them to vote on finalists, a few exceptions -- Ted Turner basically said ‘it's the Atlanta Thrashers and that's that’, and Bob Johnson naming the ‘Charlotte Bobcats’ in the NBA after himself. Both coined in the past 20 years, neither of them still using those names.”
Said Levine, “It is best to mount a 'Name the Team Sweepstakes' contest to engage with prospective fans worldwide and in the community."
On Wednesday, Foley noted that he has big ambitions for a franchise and that includes how the team will be presented moving forward.
“My goal is to make it an international brand so the people who come from China, or they come from Europe so they walk away and are wearing our jersey and wearing our hats and our t-shirts and our gym bags,” Foley said. “I want this to be an international brand and support the NHL in its international endeavors.”
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