It's been several weeks since the Washington Football Team announced it was retiring its former name and logo after more than 80 years. Ever since FedEx became the first known sponsor to formally ask Washington to change its name, fans have taken to social media to voice some of their favorites among potential replacements. I spoke with several marketing experts about a few of the fan-generated names, and will use their responses to make a case for some of the most popular suggestions. This is the case for Red Wolves.
Case for: Red Wolves
The previous story in this series made the case for why a DC-themed name would be the best option for the Washington Football Team. One of the reasons marketing professionals said it would be a good idea is because teams that have a name connected to their city have stronger brand equity. So, it’s easy to see how those same experts weren’t as thrilled about names without a deep connection to Washington, like Red Wolves.
However, the marketing professionals weren’t against the idea that Red Wolves could work. And a big part of that has to do with the very reasons former Washington cornerback and unofficial leader of the Red Wolves movement Fred Smoot brought up.
“I can just see FedEx Field and the 80,000 people just howling like Wolves. That would really be something," Smoot told NBC Sports Washington last month.
That very atmosphere described by Smoot is why the name could be a good option. While a good name contributes to strong brand equity, it isn’t the only factor, according to Tim Derdenger, associate professor of marketing and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. The fan engagement opportunities with that brand is also important, and those opportunities definitely exist with Red Wolves.
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“Absolutely, that’s certainly a dimension that you’re concerned about is what environment, what atmosphere, what engagement can you get from the fans when we can go back to these games, hopefully sooner rather than later,” Derdenger said. “And so what is that experience like? If you have really good fan experience, that is going to elevate brand equity and in the end make the organization more valuable.
“I think [Red Wolves] lends itself to a pretty interesting and maybe amazing fan experience with maybe the howling and everything.”
A good amount of fans are already fond of the Red Wolves name. It was a runaway favorite in a poll conducted by NBC Sports Washington, which also included Red Tails, Warriors and Red Hawks.
The poll didn’t include ‘other’ as an option, so it’s possible fans just chose the best of the names provided, but they aren’t alone in favoring the name. Harry Poole, VP of client services at RedPeg Marketing, also named Red Wolves among his favorites, along with Red Tails and Warriors.
“Each of these names has a story that can be told, rolls off the tongue and gives a nod to themes that represent the franchise -- strength, power, fight, courage, tradition and heroes,” Poole said.
He agrees that the team’s rebrand is about more than the name, but as the team undergoes the process, he thinks the name change can work in conjunction with an improving team on the field to create a better fan experience.
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“When the product on the field is strong, it makes the business side of things a lot easier as it relates to sales, marketing and community relations,” Poole said. “If I were selling tickets, merchandise, sponsorships or creating the gameday experience, I would be thrilled about the opportunity this presents for each of those functions.
“This is a momentous decision for the franchise, and it will impact every facet of their business. It needs to be treated as more than a creative project to identify a new moniker and logo, but instead, an exercise to reshape the entire fan experience.”
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If Washington were to go with Red Wolves, it would only be the first step of a rebrand that would need to include creating the experiences described above, but also defining what the team’s culture will be and what the brand represents going forward. In attempting to do that, RedPeg Marketing CEO Brad Nierenberg thinks Red Wolves is a name “you can run with.”
“A name is an important starting point, but it’s all about what is the pieces of the puzzle, what you build around it,” Nierenberg said. “It’s about what culture you create, what is the brand known for. And I think that it’s interesting, I think the Redskins have an incredible opportunity to start a new narrative. They really do. There’s definitely a silver lining that you can take from this. And I think they have an opportunity, and to create a new narrative about the brand, and they’ll always go, this is the new brand.”
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