What's in a Name? A Case Study of NBA Baskeball in Charlotte

Henry Wear
Dorothy Rodgers Collins
and Bob Heere

When the Charlotte Bobcats became the Charlotte Hornets at the beginning of the 2014 NBA season, the team became the first in history to rebrand itself with a moniker previously used and recently dropped by another NBA franchise. Despite being bound by NBA branding and merchandising rules, the organization was able to re-imagine the original Hornets brand to create a new distinct brand identity that pushed the organization into the future while still honoring the past. The franchise employed a variety of creative brand communication techniques, including sending Hugo the Hornet mascot door-to-door in the community, and was able to again capture the hearts and spirit of Charlotte and increase attendance overnight. The new brand allowed the Hornets to move from ranking 25th in the NBA in attendance to 19th and increase merchandise sales by 300%, despite winning fewer games than the previous season.