What’s in a Name? AFL Philadelphia LLC v. Krause Provides Legal Lessons for Sport Organizations on Use of Employee Names in Company Communications, p. 226-228

Steve McKelvey
David Heim

The landscape of second-tier professional sports is littered with leagues and teams that have folded—a reality that has become even more prevalent due to the recent economic downturn. For instance, this past August, the National Lacrosse League’s (NLL) Orlando Titans announced that it would not field a team for the 2011 season … after having substantially completed its 2011 season ticket campaign (“Titans confirm,” 2010). In March 2010, the Los Angeles Sol, the most highly-publicized team in the newly formed Women’s Professional Soccer League (WPSL), folded after just one season (Tripp, 2010). Despite averaging over 12,000 fans a game, the Sacramento Monarchs of the WNBA closed shop after the 2009 season (Lombardo, 2009b). Last but not least, one of the most surprising failures occurred in December 2008 when the Arena Football League closed its doors after a 22-year run (Lombardo, 2009a). In addition to the folding of leagues and teams, it is not uncommon for minor league teams to move to new locations. When leagues and teams fold or relocate, one of the major yet often overlooked marketing challenges is how best to communicate this decision to the franchise’s existing fan base. The communications strategy is particularly important when fans have already made emotional and financial commitments to the league or team in terms of season ticket purchases, and thus are owed refunds for their ticket purchases. This article examines a novel case of AFL Philadelphia LLC v. Krause (2009) that, while ultimately resolved by the parties, provides numerous legal and business lessons for sport organizations faced with notifying their fan base of its demise or relocation.