A certain football team based in Washington D.C. is being forced to make a decision today that many argue it should have made decades ago. The “Redskins” trademark has been cancelled by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
With that, the team owned by Dan Snyder (who has adamantly, steadfastly refused to budge on the name) has an opportunity here to not only rebrand the team, but to gain back the fans and critics they have lost over the last couple years. Turns out Snyder may be as practical as he is stubborn: A few years ago he registered the name Washington Warriors.
That name may not exactly make football fans want to rush out and buy a jersey, but then some people enjoy rooting for the Browns. Surely the Washington franchise can do better than that while still not alienating Americans who are offended by the Redskins moniker.
So how can Dan Snyder’s marketing team turn this into a win for the team? Here are four things they can do.
Let it Go
Snyder is quickly turning the team into a serious black eye. Fans are trying to be loyal, but public pressure has gone from bad to full-on blitz.
The first tip for Snyder and NFL Commish Roger Goodell is to just let it go. That’s right Dan, it’s time to not be offensive anymore. A tough sell apparently, but it has to be the first step.
As the Oneida Indian Nation said in a statement, “If the most basic sense of morality, decency and civility has not yet convinced the Washington team and the NFL to stop using this hateful slur, then hopefully the patent ruling will.”
Yet, according to this release from the Washington Redskins’ trademark attorney, they have no intention of letting go any time soon.
“You don’t want to go down in the history books as the person who refused to change a name that was considered offensive,” says Sedaria Williams, Founder of Airades Public Relations. “Change the name and reinvent yourself. This will cause a chain reaction and you will go down in the history books as a game changer.”
Assuming the team can actually figure out how to let this go, they will have to repair some bridges that they destroyed in the process. Bridges with fans, the media and pretty much everyone who doesn’t embrace a name many consider to be racist.
“For something this significant, they [Redskins] need to be completely transparent about the change,” says Jim Lin, VP, Digital Strategist at Ketchum. “You can change a logo on the down-low, but changing something this fundamental for such a significant reason needs to be addressed. Basically, own this change 100 percent.”
Listen to Social Media
The hashtag #NewRedskinsName, while quite cluttered with politics and ignorance, has picked up steam as the go-to hashtag for all things renaming the team. With over ten thousand tweets over the past month, people are talking according to tracking site Topsy.com. Some suggestions have bordered on the ridiculous of course.
— Brock Baker (@BrockBaker) June 18, 2014
How about a mythological creature: The Washington Bipartisans. #NewRedskinsName
— Steph (@Graypets) June 18, 2014
#NewRedskinsName the Washington Deficits
— keith tucker (@KthTckr) June 18, 2014
The Washington Why are the Metro Escalators Always Broken #NewRedskinsName
— Lady Luck (@tameister515) June 18, 2014
Shripal Shah, VP & Chief Strategy Officer for the Washington Redskins has his work cut out for him. He might just want to take it all with a grain of salt.
For as much support for the decision to change the name, there is as much support to not change the name. This is generally peppered with irrational comments and general cynicism around what constitutes racism. The support for should be encouraging for the Washington Redskins; social media loves a success story based around archaic behaviors being corrected with modern sensibilities.
Involve the Fans
Get the fans involved. The team still has a large dedicated group of football loving Americans that will enjoy the game regardless of the logo or name. Perhaps a campaign to encourage small agencies and individuals to help with the redesign could help — in exchange for season tickets or free refills. Hey, it worked for PornHub.
On a more macro scale, perhaps contests for fans to redesign taglines, t-shirts and other items once a new name is settled on. Fans want to be involved, they are not split on this. At this point they just want their football team to not be the one that is sneered upon by the rest of the league and the country.
Lin continued, “Like I always say, consumers allow brands to fix. things they have messed up. They don’t forgive excuses or distraction — especially in the social media age.”
“They can keep the name and lose merch income,” Author Gregg Easterbrook told me via Twitter. He has opined on the subject numerous times in his “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” column on ESPN.com. “Or change the name! How about Washington Wohnata — Lakota Sioux for ‘they are champions’.”
Whether or not Dan Snyder cracks the whip on his marketing team to plug the holes in this sinking ship; the team doesn’t actually have to stop using their current logos. There will be appeals; his stubborn refusal to move into the 21st century will most likely continue. The good news for current fans though — jerseys will most likely be super cheap once they do change the name.
— johner rico (@mrjohner) June 18, 2014