Struggling NBA Teams: 5 Franchises in Need of a Marketing Makeover

Jordan SpectorContributor IIIApril 4, 2012

Struggling NBA Teams: 5 Franchises in Need of a Marketing Makeover

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    The NBA is full of creatively branded teams that personify the character of a city.

    The New York Knicks get their name from the commonly worn pants of Dutch settlers who came to the city during the 1600s.

    The Bulls are meant to portray Chicago as the meat capital of the world, while the Pacers exemplify the strong auto-racing traditions of Indiana.

    Shakespeare once wrote, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet."

    Perhaps this statement holds some validity if we were to focus on the gentle aromas of a flower, yet when we delve in to the complexities of NBA marketing and ticket sales, the most conspicuous of names can immediately produce monetary benefits.

    Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, who set record sales for the first day after revealing their new nickname to the public, show how the impact of a thoughtful name that resonates with its fans can make a huge difference.

    Some might make a counter argument to this claim by using the Los Angeles Lakers, whose name was originally intended for the team when they played in Minnesota—"The Land of 10,000 Lakes." Following their relocation before the 1960 season, the nickname was retained despite its irrelevance to the city.

    Even so, the Lakers have established themselves as a Los Angeles team, a brand synonymous with LA culture and its fans.

    And in all fairness, it must be taken into account that the Lakers play in the second largest U.S. city in terms of population, the mecca of court-side celebrity appearances, making the job of attracting local fan support hardly a challenge.

    Yet in some cases, teams have struggled with this task, simply due to the fact that their their entire brand just doesn't make sense, much like the Lakers, but in a smaller market. The market appeal of these franchises truly relies on an established and creative team brand that characterizes the soul of a city in one name.

    As such, here are five NBA teams in desperate need of a marketing makeover. 

Utah Jazz

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    Following the move of the New Orleans Jazz to Salt Lake City, Utah in 1979, many New Orleanians were outraged by the decision.

    It was as if Salt Lake City had committed a cultural theft by maintaining the original team name and the distinct Mardi Gras-colored uniforms that used to embody the rich traditions of its former home.

    In fact, despite considerable financial struggles for the franchise—which was the main motive for relocation—New Orleans had built a strong fanbase for the Jazz and actually ranked among the top in league attendance.

    The least the Jazz organization could have done was to pay their respects to former fans and relinquish the name, paving the way for a future New Orleans team to eventually reclaim it.

    However, this never came to be, and to this day, the unrelated nickname to the state of Utah continues to bewilder its fans.

    As seen in the picture above, the modernized versions of the Jazz uniforms still maintain the original logo of the former New Orleans Jazz.

New Orleans Hornets

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    The previous slide might have been an indication as to why New Orleans has failed to find a suitable name for their franchise, but the current NBA owned Hornets can definitely improve on what is arguably the most unfitting name in the league.

    In an in-depth SI piece written by Ian Thomsen on the future of the Hornets, it was said that when the team is sold to a new ownership group—hopefully in the near future—they will likely be given a new name that represents the resilient culture of New Orleans and its fans.

    Names that have been thrown around have included the Krewe—a group of people who organize parades during Mardi Gras—as well as the VooDoo, which is currently the name of New Orleans' AFL football team.

    Either way, if the Hornets are going to stay in the Big Easy, big changes will need to be made.

    I must say though, the current uniforms for the Hornets are definitely worth keeping as they at least bring out a few of the distinct qualities that should be expressed in a city as unique as New Orleans.

Charlotte Bobcats

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    As we all know, this is Michael Jordan's team, and thus far, his off-court managerial skills have proven to be somewhat less spectacular than his days in a Chicago Bulls uniform.

    But with all the talk about contraction or selling the team, maybe Jordan can redeem himself. Perhaps a rebirth if you will, a do-over and of course a decent pick on draft night could ultimately silence the criticism of free-speaking Charles Barkley and NBA analysts alike. 

    Having the worst record in the league doesn't help when trying to start anew, but at least it's a start to changing what has been nothing more than a tumultuous eight years and a financial disaster for the city of Charlotte.

Washington Wizards

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    Just like John Wall's facial expression, I too, am appalled.

    How is a team playing in our nation's capital named the Wizards?

    Other professional sports in the area include team names such as the Capitals, Freedom and Nationals.

    Originally the Bullets, the name was changed to the Wizards in 1996 in an attempt to rid an association with gun-violence from the franchise. According to the Wizards website, "The name depicts energy and an omnipresent power, and brings to light what is hoped to be the wise and magical nature of the team."

    So I guess when Gilbert Arenas was suspended indefinitely for gun possession in an NBA locker room, he and the Wizards organization no longer saw eye to eye.

    Much like the Bobcats, the Wizards are currently one of the worst teams in the NBA, and with this title, comes the necessity for change.

    It's time that this franchise drops its magical name and finds one more characteristic of the city they play for.

New Jersey Nets

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    Not so long from now, the Nets will be playing in their new home of Brooklyn, New York.

    Originally, the Nets were in fact a New York team, and many liked the name because it rhymed with the Mets and Jets.

    However, as this team continues to rebuild and reinvent themselves, dropping the long lasting generic name that has suited them for the past couple of decades might not be such a bad idea.

    The Nets currently sit at the bottom of the ranks in league attendance, and it's impossible to know what the future holds for Russian general manager Mikhail Prokhorov and his soon-to-be Brooklyn squad.

    In 1994, the Nets actually considered changing their name to boost marketing efforts. And while the story is different now, as the team is relocating, the Nets can no longer carry this broad title if they are going to attract a new fanbase in Brooklyn.