Rebranding the Toronto Raptors Part I

With the NBA's 2011-12 season in limbo, the HQ ponders if the time isn't right to give the Toronto Raptors a major facelift...

 

The Toronto Raptors are not the Los Angeles Lakers.

They're not the Sacramento Kings either, but if you were to ask the average US basketball fan, I'd guess that they'd put the Dinos in a closer realm to the Maloofs' men in purple, then Dr. Buss' Lake Show.

Why is that exactly.

Is it due to a lack of team on-court success over the past 16 years?

Does it come down to where the Raps are located, ie their geographic location?

How about the team identity and history?  While the Toronto Blue Jays have experienced a rebirth of sorts merchandise-wise, their baseball caps becoming somewhat of a pop culture mainstay, you can't exactly say the same thing about the Dinos.

Or is it a combination of the above, bits and pieces resulting in a team that while highly valued by the likes of Forbes, and sporting a fairly solid attendance record over its history, barely registers on the average NBA fan's radar?

Over the next little while, I'd like to explore all of these different possibilities, with an end goal of answering two specific questions:

1)  Should the Toronto Raptors indeed rebrand?

2)  What would be the cost associated with such a move, both monetary, and in terms of "goodwill?"

Let's start with the first question.

In a recent poll conducted on the HQ, we asked this question and the results were nearly split down the middle.  Of the 600+ responses we had to our Sunday poll, nearly 57 per cent of respondents indicated that indeed, the team should rebrand, either right now during the lock-out (most chose this option of the two) or at some other time.

However a huge chunk of readers voted that the Dino was here to stay, and were happy that was the case.

Therefore if you were a senior exec at MLSE and went solely off of these results, you'd probably be dismissing the rebranding idea as quickly as a Milt Palacio turnover.

But that doesn't mean there aren't indeed legitimate reasons for making a change.

For starters, the Toronto Raptors' logo has never been one that's been considered a stroke of genius by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact it commonly shows up on various "worst NBA logos" lists.  The team's made numerous changes to it over the years, but the Dinosaur itself hardly has the same ring to it as Bulls or Warriors.

Could another change be made to remove the dinosaur completely from the equation?

Possibly, after all, numerous NBA teams have done major re-works to their logos the past few months, while others throughout NBA history have changed their names completely.

On top of this, the logo's popularity hasn't reflected well in terms of merchandise sales.

The Raptor didn't place in the top 10 regarding jersey sales last season according to NBA.com, and hasn't in quite some time.  For a team that may be facing attendance issues whenever the next NBA season kicks off, a boost in revenue from other areas would probably be desirable.

To me though most importantly, we're talking about a club that has made the playoffs only five times in its history, and has never made it past the second round of the dance.  It's the stigma of losing that's associated with the Raptor that needs to go, and sometimes if you can't make that change on the court (a 2011-12 season could be another extremely rough one for Dinos' fans), you do it off while you wait for the on-court stuff to kick in.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are a great example of this.

The team fell on hard times performance wise during the final years of its tenure in Seattle, but soon found success after moving to Oklahoma City.

Obviously Kevin Durant and the management team there had a lot to do with this early success, but if you recall, the team's favourable rebranding efforts also helped the cause.  Lately the team has looked to make another set of changes, even incorporating some of the Seattle Sonics' old attributes.

Other rebranding efforts like those of the Washington Wizards, who changed their name from the Washington Bullets prior to the 1997-98 season, have been met with mixed reviews however, so a name or image change is no slam dunk.

Therefore let's hear your thoughts.

Before we delve into the financial reasons for making such a change, and the various risks inherently associated with rebranding, I'm curious to hear from our readers, what they view to be some of the major challenges that accompany an undertaking like this.

At face value, certain legal restrictions (apparently it takes over a year to file a name change request with the league) pose potential hurdles, and the more layers we peel away, the more we'll see that this is no easy feat; a re-branding effort takes 100 per cent commitment from top to bottom, management-wise.

With the Raptors up for sale, how realistic then is such a move?

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