The other benefit of rebranding

WASHINGTON — There has been plenty of discussion recently about whether the Washington Redskins should change their name. With Wednesday’s announcement that a federal trademark board has ruled against the name the decision may ultimately be out of their hands.

While most of the talk surrounding the potential name change has focused on the appropriateness of the mascot, few have focused on the financial implications.

No NFL team has changed nicknames since the Tennessee Oilers became the Tennessee Titans one year after their move from Houston in 1998. The last true renaming without a geographic relocation occurred after the 1962 season when the New York Titans became the New York Jets. But plenty of teams have tweaked logos and colors, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who just changed schemes for the second time since 1997.

Though a name change would be almost unprecedented for an NFL franchise, there are myriad different directions the Redskins could choose, should they decide to make the jump.

“Clearly there’s a huge potential for merchandise sales,” says Minor League Baseball business writer Ben Hill, who has covered the many recent rebrands in the minors.

As he has witnessed, some teams that rebrand have great financial gains, often through the increased awareness of their image and shiny new logos, team names and color schemes.

“Teams have really found that it’s good for merchandise sales,” says Hill. “Not just local sales, but national. The logo becomes appealing to anybody. It’s not something you have to be from that area to become appealing.”

Several teams have seen their sales numbers jump since their rebranding efforts. While MiLB merchandise sales have risen in the past few years (from $55.2 million in 2011 up to $55.4 million last season), the list of top sellers has been littered with rebranded clubs.

The newly-minted Hilsboro Hops — a club in a tiny market and with only half as many games as the full-season clubs — cracked the top 25 (of 160) in their first year. So did the renamed Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders and Reading Fightin’ Phils, for the first time since ’07 and ’01, respectively.



The Lansing Lugnuts chose a nickname with local ties to the city’s automotive history. (Lansing Lugnuts)

Some of the most successful minor league rebrands — from “The Simpsons”-derived Albuquerque Isotopes to the Lansing Lugnuts or Richmond Flying Squirrels — have continued to place in the top 25 in sales consistently since their overhaul.

Then there’s the case of the El Paso Chihuahuas, who initially drew national ire upon the announcement of their name.

“I think there was a significant misread by a significant portion of the population on

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