Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators hockey fans are on the edge of their seats as they cheer their team on in the battle for the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Stanley Cup. Fans of the other 28 teams however, might be looking for new seats to sit in and a new hockey team to cheer for. At the start of the 2018 season there will be a new team taking the ice in Las Vegas.
A sports team, similar to a new product or service, needs a Brand that consumers and fans can get excited about and interact with. Building a Brand from scratch takes both time and talent and requires the most basic components first: a name and logo. Generating awareness and publicity for a Brand is all centered around the first stage of that Brand’s development. This is the exact test facing the newest member of the NHL – The Vegas Golden Knights – entering into a league that has been around for 100 years and has some of the most established brands in the sports world. Competing against well-established brands with an existing fan base is going to place significant pressure on the new Vegas team in terms of building a strong, recognizable Brand that can gain a following and stick around for the next 100 years.
A sports team’s identity and Brand revolve first around the name, it must be unique and memorable to establish a reputation amongst fans, one that they will chant for seasons to come. This is why, when it was announced that the NHL’s 31st team was going to be located in Las Vegas, Nevada, team owner Bill Foley spent a great deal of time focusing on the name.
Similar to what some companies choose to do, Foley chose to handle the name creation on his own. As is the case with any new product, this process can be strenuous one, which Foley soon found out. His preferred name for the team was the “Las Vegas Black Knights,” as a tribute to his alma mater, “The Army Black Knights.” However, this name – even though the competition is at different levels – was not ownable from a trademark perspective … an issue not uncommon in any naming initiative. An understanding of the trademark process is a focal point in any naming initiative, but is unfortunately a part of that process that is often overlooked until it presents itself as a problem for proposed name candidates.
After going back to the drawing board, they unveiled the final name —Vegas Golden Knights – in late 2016. Accompanying the name, the new team also unveiled the logo, showing off the a gold “V” often times associated with Las Vegas in order to build on the existing visual representation of the franchise’s home city. Several other NHL teams have used a similar strategy of connecting their logo with their city (Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Calgary Flames). Like any Brand, it is crucial that a team’s new identity connect with the target audience, beginning with the local fan base and branching out into the hockey fans at large.
It is obvious that a lot of strategic thinking went into creating this Brand. The colors on the logo and name of the Brand both relate to the location of the team, so it is abundantly clear that their intention is to target the people of Las Vegas. The name is the center piece of any Brand, so it is critical that it is aligned for success as sports fans are unlike any other when it comes to consumers connecting with entertainment.
However, this can sometimes limit the potential audience and create the sense that one can only support this Brand if they are in close proximity to it. In this case, a successful Brand would reach beyond the city of Las Vegas, and the team is relying on their Brand to grow a fan base larger than in their geographic area. It will definitely be interesting to see if the Brand connects with the people of Las Vegas and hockey fans everywhere this fall.