Ottawa brands: Seven reasons “Red Blacks” will never be our CFL team name.

You only get three downs in the CFL. And Ottawa’s new team has used up two…

So there’s a lot of talk in Ottawa about a couple of potential names being tossed about for the new/old/here-we-go-again CFL football team.“Red Blacks” is the latest, and seems to be gaining a few admirers as well as a host of detractors – including CFL Hall of Famer Russ Jackson. But it may not matter. This name was fumbled. And it seems someone else may have picked it up…

RussJackson

First of all, let me just say that I don’t mind the suggested name. It’s not exciting, but then neither is “Cleveland Browns” or “New Zealand All Blacks”. It *could* have been built into a relatively strong brand, and I’m sure it *would* have grown on the Ottawa fans. Remember, “Rough Riders” was always an awkward name to start with – between Saskatchewan having the same name and being named after an American military unit.

And it’s not nearly as embarassing as the former team name “Renegades”. Or the Rapidz baseball team – who played three seasons under three different names (thanks to Rock Norris for the reminder – shiver).

But it will never happen. And here’s why.

Seven good reasons Red Blacks can’t be the name

1) The first down: Ottawa Rush Smacked down

The first down was a Hail Mary pass from OSEG quarterback Jeff Hunt. But  the really awful name “Ottawa Rush” was prematurely “discovered” after the Ottawa Citizen found a trademark application, and then apparently abandoned when the public reaction smacked the ball out of the air.

2) Second down: Ottawa Red Blacks fumbled

But then they made the same basic mistakes with their second attempt. Again, the Ottawa Citizen found an application online “to trademark several variations of the name Ottawa Red Blacks, for use with a proposed football team.” And the name was then confirmed as an option in an e-mail from Jeff Hunt.

Hunt explained OSEG hasn’t made a final call just yet, because the group is planning to do some focus testing on potential names first (and) release the team name… in late January or early February.

3) Naming contests kill good names

You held a naming contest, and that was a giant mistake. Take my word for this. As nice and democratic as it sounds, this never works. I could go on for hours about this, but in your case, the biggest reason is that it made the people who care most take sides too early. You basically set the stage for a large crowd of vocal people to be disappointed whatever the outcome.

4) Negative public reaction

But of course, it’s too late for focus groups when nine out of ten people in an online survey have already decided they don’t like it. Of course, OSEG could ignore this feedback and push on (at their peril). But there are several bigger issues that will kill this name before it flies.

5) Trademark threat 1: Semi-professional team in Watertown, New York

Watertown Red and Black: Okay, it’s not a Canadian brand, but Watertown is just across the border – well within the reach of TV and radio broadcasts. And this team could make the case for trademark confusion.

6) Trademark threat 2: powerful US College football team

redandblkforever_largeUniversity of Georgia Bulldogs Ever hear of American College football? Yeah, well they know the value of branding, and this team brand, fondly called the “Red and Black” by its fans (see t-shirt at right) is about as big as they come – having just won their 2013 conference bowl game. And the UGA student newspaper (Red & Black) also owns redandblack.com. So let the confusion – and litigation – begin!

7) Web Address: gone

It seems that for all of their work on the trademark front, it seems the team did not secure any of the key Web addresses it would need to really build a solid brand online.  As a matter of fact, “RedBlack.ca” and “RedBlacks.ca” were just scooped up yesterday AFTER  the media storm began. And I’m willing to bet it wasn’t OSEG that registered them with GoDaddy.com.

So now it’s third down…

So Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group. You’ve had two chances to launch your brand right, and both times you lost yardage. So your choices seem to be: punt or push on. But I’d like to suggest a third option:

Bring in a special team.

Branding – and particularly NAMING a new brand – is a tricky business, and it’s obviously not OSEG’s specialty. Call in the people who do this all the time. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least one local guy who could help.

But before I get too smarmy, any readers want to weigh in? What do you think?

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  1. Via Rock: Didn’t you know? There’s a law stating that no other Ottawa Sports franchise, professional or semi-professional, will have a better name/brand than the Senators. See also: Lynx, Rapidzz, Fat Cats, Renegades, Rough Riders (which would be fine if there weren’t another franchise in the same league named Roughriders), any I’m forgetting? Oh, and front runners so far have included “Rush” for a team in a passing league and possibly infringing on the trademark held by an Arena Fooball franchise by the same name, and now this?

  2. Les Rouge Noires… sounds like an awful tongue twister in French. At least Senators works in French. A name that works on both languages is mandatory in Ottawa.

  3. Don’t worry about the URL or the Bulldogs. The whole naming issue was fumbled from the beginning, but Ottawa Red Blacks is a great name. Even some of the most vocal early objectors are warming up e.g. keenanwellar.wordpress./2013/01/30/ottawa-red-blacks-an-appeal-to-jeff-hunt-ottawa-sports-entertainment-group-oseg/ in French it will be Rouge-et-Noires.

  4. Hummm.  I just learned that there is a Russian Hockey team named Sputnik, named after the famous Russian satellite.  Maybe Ottawa could follow their lead and call their team Ottawa Canadarm after our most famous space thingy.