The Houston Astros have a new owner. That’s a good thing. Jim Crane has been doing and saying all the right things so far in his new capacity. He is lowering ticket prices to stir fan interest. He is looking at the team’s uniforms to breathe new life into the franchise. He has hired good people for the front office. The future of the Houston franchise certainly has to look better than its present and recent past. But now Crane is talking about changing the team name. What!?
Certainly, the “Astros” moniker isn’t perfect. It reminds you of the Jetson‘s dog on an old animated cartoon series. Whenever something wrong happened with the team, it was hard not to say comically, “Rut roh!” But the name made sense from the Houston area. The city has had the Oilers and the Rockets, all team names that define Houston somewhat. The Astros were a retrofitted name from the days when the franchise opened the Astrodome in 1965. It seemed natural for the Colt 45′s to change their name to the Astros upon entering that place. It all fit since Houston was the business hub of all things in the NASA glory years.
And you can understand that the name doesn’t make as much sense as it used to make. The Astros have been out of the Astrodome for more than a decade. Now that the Shuttle program is over, perhaps the NASA tie in isn’t what it used to be. The arguments for and against changing the moniker will have to be made from a marketing perspective. And Crane indicated that such studies are already underway. And that’s as it should be. This writer has long been on record of stating that how a team markets and brands itself is just as important as the product it puts on the field. The Tampa Bay Rays are a great example. Their on-field product success does not match the team’s off field marketing success.
But there are inherent risks in re-branding. Just ask Coca-Cola. You better be sure if you are going to make such a move. In retrospect, changing the Colt 45 name was the right move. Imagine if the Houston team was still named after a beer nobody drinks anymore. Naming a franchise is really troublesome. How many good team names have been created in the last decade or so?
Perhaps this writer lacks imagination. A new name simply doesn’t come to mind. Part of the problem is the “H” that begins Houston. The soft sounding letter doesn’t lead to many tough-sounding combinations. The “Houston Rockets” was a really great name. If the Astros had found that first, they’d be golden. Everyone loves rockets. But Crane has a point. What the heck is an astro other than the first two syllables of, “astronaut” anyway?
We have to give Crane the benefit of the doubt here. It’s his job to rebuild this brand. The team has to do that joining a new league in 2013 and is at its lowest nadir in terms of product on the field. The odds are already stacked against him. Let’s all hope that he has hired the best of marketing firms to handle such a thought and that they work very closely with the fan base. This writer isn’t against change. But it needs to be a positive change.
Do you have any suggestions for Jim Crane for a new team name? We’d love to hear them.