How do teams get their names?

Answered by Phillip Nicastro

Teams get their names through a variety of ways, and it can differ from sport to sport and from team to team. The process of selecting a team name often involves careful consideration, market research, and sometimes even fan input. Let’s delve into the different factors that can influence how teams come up with their names.

1. Location: The location name is an important aspect of a team’s identity. It can be the city, state, region, or even a broader geographic area. This location name helps fans and supporters connect with the team and creates a sense of local pride. For example, the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) retained their name when they moved from Minneapolis, even though the name “Lakers” is more associated with the lakes of Minnesota than with Los Angeles.

2. Nickname: The nickname is the second part of a team’s name and often represents a characteristic, animal, or something that embodies the team’s values or identity. It can be fierce, powerful, or even whimsical. The nickname adds an additional layer of personality and uniqueness to the team. For instance, the Chicago Bulls (NBA) chose their nickname to symbolize strength and determination.

3. Historical Context: Some team names have deep historical roots or cultural significance. They might pay homage to local traditions, historical events, or prominent figures. For example, the Green Bay Packers (NFL) were named to reflect the team’s early association with the Indian Packing Company, a former sponsor.

4. Branding and Marketability: Teams, particularly in professional sports, often consider the marketability and branding potential of their names. They aim to create a name that resonates with fans, generates merchandise sales, and can be easily recognized and marketed. A catchy or unique name can help the team stand out and attract attention. The Golden State Warriors (NBA) changed their location name from specific to general (Golden State) to appeal to a broader fan base in California.

5. Fan Input and Contests: Some teams involve their fans in the naming process by running contests or seeking suggestions. This encourages fan engagement and can lead to a name that the community feels connected to. The Seattle Kraken (NHL) held a public naming contest, and the winning suggestion became the team’s name, creating a sense of ownership and pride among the fans.

6. Rebranding and Relocation: Sometimes, teams may undergo name changes when they relocate to a new city or undergo a rebranding effort. This allows them to align their name with their new location or to create a fresh start. The New Orleans Pelicans (NBA) changed their name from the New Orleans Hornets to better represent the local wildlife and culture.

The process of how teams get their names is a complex one that involves a mix of factors such as location, nickname selection, historical context, marketability, fan input, and rebranding considerations. It is a decision that carries significant weight as it becomes a crucial part of a team’s identity and can shape the fans’ connection and perception of the team.