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Even a New Name Can't Make the Charlotte Bobcats As Popular As Their Owner


Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan during the first half of a game against the Brooklyn Nets in Charlotte, North Carolina on Nov. 20

Photograph by Chuck Burton/AP Photo

Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan during the first half of a game against the Brooklyn Nets in Charlotte, North Carolina on Nov. 20

The Charlotte Bobcats will reveal their new team logo on Dec. 21 during halftime of their game against the Utah Jazz. Next season the Bobcats will become the Hornets. Charlotte had an NBA team called the Hornets from 1988 to 2002. That franchise moved to New Orleans and recently changed its name to the Pelicans. Now Charlotte is reclaiming the Hornets name in a rebranding spectacular brought to you by Mercedes-Benz (DAI).

Bobcats principal owner Michael Jordan will lead the ceremony, which, according to the team’s press release, will include “the official unveiling of the Charlotte Hornets brand identity” and the “logos and wordmarks that will be utilized when the Hornets name returns.” The Bobcats could use a new brand identity. At the moment, it’s a franchise working hard to reach mediocrity.

Its struggles don’t seem to have tarnished the owner’s reputation, at least outside of Charlotte. As I’ve noted here before, Jordan, as a pitchman, remains untouchable. He may be having trouble selling his house, but he can still sell sneakers like nobody else. Brand Jordan, owned by Nike (NKE), accounts for 54 percent of the U.S. basketball shoe market, according to Matt Powell, an analyst for SportsOneSource. (The rest of Nike accounts for an additional 38 percent.) And according to marketing research firm Repucom, people still want to “Be Like Mike.” Only Lionel Messi, David Beckham, and Roger Federer enjoy a higher “aspiration” rating among the thousands of celebrities in Repucom’s global surveys.

In the U.S., Jordan is the top-ranked endorser among all athletes, followed by Arnold Palmer and Peyton Manning. Broaden the pool to all celebrities, and Jordan finishes 10th. There are small signs that he may be slipping: In 2008, he was the top-ranked endorser among all celebrities. And his ratings in every metric except for aspiration have fallen slightly since then. (His weakest attribute, by the way, is “appeal,” where he ranks 403 out of 3,240.) Still, he’s clearly the most marketable basketball player in Charlotte. If the Hornets name doesn’t work out, Charlotte should consider calling the team the Jordans and putting Michael in the lineup.

Boudway_190
Boudway is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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