$3 Million Question: Will Nostalgia, Money Follow 'Hornets' Nickname?
The Charlotte Bobcats face a $3 million decision: Is it worth the investment to change the team’s name to “Hornets,” hoping to capture the nostalgia for Charlotte’s original NBA team?
Reports Tuesday said Tom Benson, the new owner of the New Orleans Hornets who said he wants to change his team’s nickname to something that represents that city, has chosen “Pelicans” as that new name.
“Hornets” might be available as soon as next season, so the Bobcats must decide if they want the name back in the city where it has over a 100-year history. Is there enough goodwill in the old teal-and-purple stripes, in terms of more tickets sold and more merchandise purchased, to justify the cost?
Probably, says a sports branding expert, but not definitely.
“There is enough nostalgia about that name that you could get some good karma from it,” said Joe Favorito, a professor of advanced sports marketing at Columbia University. “Would they stick around if the team isn’t good? Probably not. But that nickname could have the effect of getting some customers to give it a second look.”
Just last summer, in response to customer feedback, the team changed its colors to de-emphasize orange and shortened the name on the home jerseys to “Cats” in a branding shift. Another change could also upset other customers, some of whom have supported the Bobcats since the expansion franchise began playing nine seasons ago.
The Hornets nickname in Charlotte dates back to the Revolutionary War, when British General Charles Cornwallis compared the resistance in Charlotte to a hornet’s nest. It has been used in sports by a minor league baseball team (1901-73), an upstart football league team (1974-75) and the city’s first NBA franchise.
The NBA Hornets played in Charlotte from 1988 to 2002 before an arena dispute caused them to move to New Orleans. The NBA replaced the Hornets with an expansion team, the Bobcats, in 2004.
But the Bobcats have struggled to win, making the NBA playoffs once in their first eight seasons. Attendance at 19,000-seat Time Warner Cable Arena has lagged.
The team has never captured Charlotte’s attention the way the Hornets did at the Charlotte Coliseum, the since-demolished arena which was located off Tyvola Road. The “Hive,” as that 24,000-seat arena was known, once hosted 364 consecutive NBA sellouts for the Hornets. Continue reading at the Charlotte Observer.