What the Swamp Rabbits’ novel new team name can teach sports marketers.

What’s in a name? When it comes to sports teams, a lot. Especially in the minor league sports space, in which buzz and attention do not come as easily as they do for their well-supported and perceived major pro counterparts. One of the most recent sports team name changes, and one that captured a few a headlines, was the announcement that ECHL hockey club The Greenville Road Warriors would heretofore be known as the Greenville “Swamp Rabbits.”

In a recent interview on the Tao of Sports podcast, Swamp Rabbits Executive Vice President Chris Lewis discussed the effects of the name change, as well as the strategy underlying it. In addition to giving the team a name more native to the area, it also it has having a profound effect in the team’s business and marketing development.

Here are three lessons gleaned from the interview with Lewis that sports marketers can take from his discussion on the Swamp Rabbits name:

Be part of the conversation.They understand that, every day, they can realize thousands of “impressions” of their brand; as difficult as it is to track. It keeps their team front-of-mind with fans in a native, organic way. Teams always had a feeling that giving out t-shirts, magnets, and mugs; that inserting your way into the water cooler conversation has as much, if not more, value than a billboard or media advertisement. In a world in which there is an ever-increasing competition for consumer attention, the organic conversations and impressions are the most effective and worthy of investment. So whether it’s on Facebook, on a mobile device, on a t-shirt, in a conversation at the office, or any number of places fans give attention each day, all those impressions add up…add up into real monetary value.The Swamp Rabbits are the talk of more than just their town and as consumers pick up new paraphernalia, digital and physical, the conversations and buzz form a great synergy in marketing for the team.

swamp-rabbits

Be known and perceived legitimately in the community. It’s one thing to have awareness. But brand awareness means more than just knowing the name. It means having a name that represents something known, respected, and engage-able. And, of course, knowing who the heck you are and why they should care. When a team like the Swamp Rabbits are one of the major shows in town, and the only show in the immediate area for pro hockey, gets their name AND their story out there, that’s where the real value comes. This is why PR is a practice and a practice with strategic foundation. Impressions and awareness is great, but there is a difference between effective impressions and effective awareness.

The Swamp Rabbits had marketing to back their buzz to convert that attention into measurable business objectives and frame the discussion on their valued terms. That’s the money lesson.

Be different. Interest is a commodity. And being different from the ordinary, standing out among the crowd Whether one is trying to pique the interest of a new fan or raise eyebrows of prospective corporate partners, having something different and sexy, in a sense, can be a key factor in success. Of course, the complementary step is having a strong value proposition to juxtapose with what sets your team or brand apart. It could be the fan demographics, the unique asset, or the distinct brand and story. It comes down to business objectives, in the end, and being different can be great, if there is a story detailing a path to ROI to tell, too.
The Swamp Rabbits established this new, vibrant, and exciting brand. They know who they are and know the story they want to tell fans and partners now that they have their attention.

So while several sportswriters, bloggers, business folk, and fans shared a chuckle over the novel new name of Greenville’s ECHL club, the Swamp Rabbits execs were hard at work, pulling the strings to maximize the effect of the marketing machine. This requires communication, planning, goal setting and tracking, and, of course, stellar execution. It was great to hear insight from Swamp Rabbits EVP Chris Lewis as he sees it all play out, in virtual real time. So what is in a name, indeed? Great value, if you’re ready to exploit it.

Posted by Neil Horowitz Follow me on Twitter @njh287   Connect on LinkedIn

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