...goes a long way, especially when I'm thinking about brands, brand management and the power of brands to build successful organizations and careers.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Houston soccer team blinks


There's a ruckus being raised in Houston over the name of the new (relocated) MLS franchise there. John Wagner of Houston's Wagner Communications explains the situation in his blog post.

In short it goes like this: The owners of the franchise were in a hurry to get the marketing in place for the season, which begins in April. The team, formerly known as the San Jose Clash, then the Earthquakes, came up with the name "Houston 1836" which has a bit of a European soccer ring to it while celebrating the year Houston was founded. It's also the year Texas gained its independence from Mexico so team officials ran it by the Latino community's business and political leaders, got sign-off from them, and then announced the name and the logo. Wagner reports from Houston that, in fact, "City Councilman Adrian Garcia even appeared on stage at the news conference announcing the name, addressing the crowd in Spanish."

Then a few 'professional sensitives' - as Wagner calls them - started to raise a stsink. The Houston Chronicle story reports that "Many Hispanics have voiced their dislike for the controversial name" while Wagner reports "just a couple of very visible folks" wanted the name change. That was enough, apparently, to get the attention of sponsors.

Now, it seems, the owners are shaking in their cowboy boots and are reconsidering the name, less than seven weeks from the opening of the season. You can follow the blow-by-blow on the HoustonNet blog, too. The team is apparently, according to the Chronicle article, considering a tired and overused "Lone Star" or "Lonestar" as an alternative. How sad.

Wagner, a PR counselor, asks: "What would you do?" I wrote in his blog that they should stand strong so they don't look weak. In soccer-speak, the defense needs to "hold the line."

In my comment, I suggested that they address the Mexican-American audience with purposeful, brand-driven action, not to save face (pardon the mixed cultural reference there), but to do the smart thing because it's the smart thing. It should have been done before the name issue even came up. Specifically, I suggested the following:
"Tactically, I'd be encouraging the team to work with the Mexican-American community by supporting youth soccer leagues, literacy programs and families-in-need programs. Build the roster with more than a few Mexican league and Latino
players. Include authentic Mexican food on the concession stand menu. Hire a Latino to deliver Spanish language radio broadcasts on a Spanish language station."
Unfortunately, the franchise has blinked, and it may be too late, but this is another example of what happens when an organization doesn't lead with its brand! Stay tuned.

2 Comments:

Blogger John Wagner said...

Mark:

Thanks for visiting my blog and for your insightful comments. I agree with your approach 100 percent ... and I have a feeling the team WILL do the types of things you suggested, even if they do change the name.

Unfortunately, in a new market, without much of a history, I think the owners in Los Angeles grew nervous too quickly. But from what I've heard, even the Mexican television networks were getting involved in considering a boycott and that proved too much.

7:14 AM

 
Anonymous J. Michael said...

Good insights. I think MLS will regret backing down on this one.

My wife went to college in Pella -- down the road a bit from you.

7:54 PM

 

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