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 Hogs.
Case for: Washington Red Hogs
On Monday, we made the case for why Red Tails would be a good replacement as the Washington Football Team’s new name. But outside of that name, the marketing professionals I spoke with didn’t exactly love other names beginning with “Red.”
For one, the experts almost all agree that the team should go in a completely different direction from its old moniker, which offended many people. Secondly, they think a great name is one with a connection to the city of the team.
This is where a name like Red Hogs, or just Hogs, holds an advantage over ones like Red Hawks and Red Wolves. Though pigs aren’t specific to Washington, they are specific to the Washington Football Team, which has represented the city for over 80 years.
The term hogs was popularized in Washington in the 1980’s as a nickname for the team’s great offensive line. From 1982 to 1992, the Hogs helped the team reach four Super Bowls, winning three of them and becoming one of the league’s most popular teams in the process.
The popularity and success of the Hogs crossed over to the fans, as the Hogettes emerged from that era. For 30 years, the all-male group of fans wore pig snouts and dresses to Washington’s games to cheer on the team, gaining national recognition themselves.
That history between the team and the fans is what intrigued marketing professionals about the Red Hogs names. Tim Derdenger, associate professor of marketing and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business, believes the name could work, especially in moving the team forward from the previous name. But he said it depends on how much the Hogs brand still connects with the fan base. The team hasn’t enjoyed the same type of success since that run of Super Bowls over 30 years ago and the Hogettes retired in 2013.
“They could probably do it. The challenge though is do you have enough of your existing fanbase that is tied and connected to that moniker," Derdenger said. "I know there’s a group of passionate, old Washington Football Team fans that have dressed up for games, etc. as hogs. But what’s the size of that fanbase. If it’s small, and people aren’t really backing it and behind it, then that’s probably the wrong direction to go. Very good market research understands what the size of that particular fanbase is. If it’s large, then sure I think it can be an accessible name. But if it’s a small one then you’re gonna have trouble getting buy-in from everybody else.”
Brad Nierenberg, CEO of RedPeg Marketing, agrees it would be difficult to get buy-in on the name from people who don’t already look at it in a positive light.
“That’s one of the key things that the team had been known for is the Hogs, but that’s like … hogs were pigs,” Nierenberg said. “I don’t know if that’s an endearing or a powerful [name]. That’s not like the Razorbacks, you know? Arkansas has got the Razorbacks. What kind of hogs are those? The Red Hogs, I just don’t think that’s got a lot.”
That point is the one advantage Hawks has over Hogs. It's probably a more appealing animal, and thus brand, for fans to attach themselves to. But while Nierenberg said “it can work,” he thinks Red Hawks simultaneously fails to draw a connection to the city and fails to differentiate enough from the previous brand.
“I don’t think there’s anything indigenous about that, if there’s a bird that’s a Red Hawk? I just don’t think it’s got a powerful … There’s a little bit of the Redskins, but also switching to a little not well-known bird,” Nierenberg said.
Derdenger also sees a way for Red Hawks to work, but doesn’t like it as much as Red Hogs.
“I think that’s the homage to the teams of the past, still retaining that connection to the past teams," Derdenger said. "But with that name, it moves the team forward."
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