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For nearly two years, the National Football League’s Washington franchise has been operating under the placeholder moniker of the Washington Football Team. After documenting its rebranding journey with videos, messages from the team president and a sampling of some 40,000 fan submissions, the team today revealed its new name: the Washington Commanders.

It’s “the strong and safe bet,” said Holly Hessler, a copywriting professor at the Brandcenter at Virginia Commonwealth University. “It’s a powerful name, is relevant to their area, and sounds great when you say it.”

The journey doesn’t end with the announcement. The franchise has scheduled a series of events this weekend, including a “tailgate experience that will headline a series of fan-focused events and surprise moments throughout D.C., Maryland and Virginia.”

“Overall, I think this is a smart choice,” Hessler said. She discussed the new name with VCU News.

What do you think about the timing of the announcement?

Perfectly paired with the announcement of the teams for this year’s Super Bowl. Football is already on everyone’s brain. This is the time to get the Washington Commanders in the conversation.

Keeping in mind that football works in seasons, and they aren’t going to want to change the name midseason, I think they took just the right amount of time thinking through this. More than one season, not more than two.

The Commanders name was leaked last week. Does that take away from the excitement of the announcement?

It got everyone talking. Speculation is a great way to engage your audience. I’m not saying they planned it, but I’m sure they weren’t mad at it either.

How long will it take fans to come on board? Since they already had to adjust to the generic, temporary Washington Football Team, will they be quicker to accept the new name?

There’s no way to tell, but I will say this: The fans’ willingness to accept the Washington Football Team as a placeholder makes me think they’ll be amenable to embracing the new name sooner rather than later. Unless, of course, they prefer the Washington Football Team.

Washington has been building up to this for a long time. Was this a good idea? Did they risk building up the hype so much that they can’t possibly meet expectations?

I think part of the buildup is around letting the fans know this was a very considered and thoughtful process. This name was tested. They listened to the fans’ thoughts. They paid attention.

The payoff is never going to be perfect for everyone, but the time they took in getting to it says that they cared about where they landed.

What’s the strategic reasoning for the series of fan-focused events in the wake of the announcement?

They’re trying to answer the question, ‘What does it now mean to be a fan of the Washington Commanders?’ Rather than let people speculate whether it will be a good, bad, similar or brand-new experience, they’re being proactive and showing them immediately.

What specific factors did Washington need to consider when picking a new name?

I think the factors are similar. What does the name sound like when you say it? What does it look like on merchandise? How can it scale, i.e., onto jerseys, T-shirts, on food at the concession stand, etc.? Does it tell me something about the team’s ethos? Does it tell me something about what and where the team comes from? The Washington Commanders feels like a name that has an enormous amount of reach and scale. It’s easy to say, it feels big and proud, and it speaks to the surrounding area and what makes it tick.

What do you think of the new name? Was it worth the wait?

I see it as a strong and safe choice. It doesn’t strike as particularly unexpected or divisive, rather, it’s solid and evokes a sense of power and respect that I think is perfect for the brand.

In comparison to their former moniker, the Commanders peacocks much more of a “look at me, I’ve got something to show you” attitude that I think the fans will grow to love.

What would you like to add?

Buy up all the [Washington] Football Team merchandise now while you can!




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