Since the new Chief Executive Officer of MLSE Tim Leiweke took over, some major moves have been made for the Toronto Raptors organization. With what started out as a mere cleanup of the front office and other lingering pieces has turned into a complete franchise face-lift: something much needed for a team with storied losing history.
Leiweke wants to build a legacy for the Raptors and based on the team’s current situation, it wont be an easy task. Even further, during his press conference Leweike brought up ideas about the re-branding of the team, which could possibly include a name change. Is a name change necessary in order to change the perception of the lone Canadian team? Perhaps, but there’s a lot more to it than that. This is why Raptors Cage is offering these six strategic steps to successfully re-brand the Toronto Raptors.
If the Raptors plan to change how the NBA views them, they need to win. That’s the bottom line. Out of all the current franchises, the Toronto Raptors have a career winning percentage of 40.7%, doing better than only the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, and of course, the abysmal Charlotte Bobcats. Average Raptors tickets go for about $46.14, while the price of an average Memphis Grizzlies ticket is $29.49.
For a product that has been far below average in terms of performance, for far too many years the fans deserve much better. MLSE seems to be making too much money off the sorrows of the heartbroken fans drinking away their pain as opposed to giving people a team and a game that’s worth the price of admission.
Winning is the cure for everything. It will change the cities perspective on the team, gain the franchise additional exposure in Canada, and create relevancy and history in the NBA.
It’s simple: want to stop being a joke? Win.
The culture of a franchise comes from within. In that sense, the makeup of the team and their style of play are important in this establishment of culture. Enter Dwane Casey who brings a humble, yet tough nosed and defensive mentality. He has been someone who has actually generated hope in altering how soft the Raptors have become over the recent years.
I’m not trying to be harsh – that’s the reality of how the Raptors have been portrayed for many years and this needs to change. Pound the Rock is the mantra, and it’s exactly what this team needs in order to stay focused on a common goal of having a principle. The culture needs to be developed and carried on – want a good example of this? See the San Antonio Spurs.
History and culture could potentially be one section, but there was a need to divide them. If the Raptors plan to change their name, they cannot, and SHOULD NOT crowd source the fan base or general public. Other than a raptor being aggressive agile and versatile the reason that the Raptors have their name is because of the popularity of the movie filmed in Toronto, Jurassic Park. However, it should also be mentioned that the Los Angeles Lakers name derives from the Minnesota Lakers (they have a lot of lakes in Minnesota), and while irrelevant, there is no chance LA ever changes that name.
Names come from stupid places, however they all carry a history, and this is what needs to be evaluated. Does the name ‘Raptors’ carry enough history to be kept, or does the burden of being a poor franchise for virtually its entire tenure warrant a name change? A name change would mean a clean slate – no more Raptors.
The only name change the team should consider is to the Toronto Huskies, as it is somewhat relevant to Canada and has a history behind it. No other name is acceptable. It is well known that the Raptors have their blue and white throwback jerseys for this team. It should also be known that the Toronto Huskies and the New York Knickerbockers tipped off the NBA’s (BAA at the time) first game ever. Re-marketing basketball to Canada makes sense. The Huskies name represents the nation in a better way than the Raptors, and becoming Canada’s team is the goal according to Leiweke.
Maybe the new commissioner Adam Silver will allow the Raptors to play a few regular season games in Vancouver and Montreal, and potentially some preseason games in the smaller Canadian markets to help spread appeal across the country. If the team’s new identity is accompanied with a winning and exciting product, excitement around Canada could really take off. With the 2016 All-Star game a major goal for Leweike, expect something drastic to take place. The all-star game would be huge in terms of gaining relevancy, and would be fantastic for the city and country.
Before we can move on, Andrea Bargnani has to go. I may be beating a dead horse but a seven-foot burden is hard to ignore. July 1st is his deadline according to new GM Masai Ujuri. As bad as it may sound, Bargnani represents the ultimate loser. Loser can be defined as one that fails consistently, especially a person with bad luck or bad skills. I just think he has bad luck and fails consistently. Adding on to that, he is the biggest symbol the failed Bryan Colangelo era in Toronto, so cutting ties from here on in would be the best bet for everyone involved.
Make it Epic!
It must be epic. The campaign must be educating, interesting and as persuasive as possible. If they can create as much buzz for maybe getting Steve Nash, than a Raptor vs. Huskie mini-movie fight to the death during an Ice Age wouldn’t be too much to ask for. As crazy as it may sound, the transition from the Raptors to the Huskies would be rather smooth if they’re able to keep the same animalistic characteristics and elements of the existing logos they currently have in place. For example, the Raptor claw with basketball logo could easily become a Huskie paw with a basketball in the same sense.
However if the MLSE decided to just overhaul the current Raptors gear and logo (and the world’s best mascot), that wouldn’t be a bad idea either. After all, the Huskies only did play for one year, so it is understandable if this team keeps the name. If this does happen, the brand needs to be revamped. Imagine all the throwback Raptor jersey’s this team could have. To take it even further, if the Raptors have home games on Thursday’s, Throwback Thursday (even with Huskies jerseys) would get the whole country involved and closer to the team (just imagine picking jerseys when you’re playing 2k).
Not Just A Money Grab
Re-branding the Raptors cannot be just a money grab opportunity for the management. If the Raptors decide to rename, timing is everything and this would not be the year to do it. There have been a lot of sudden changes recently backed by some really big talk, creating some lofty expectations. The Raptors have a losing history, so this move needs to be made when everyone from management, to the players and the fans are in a positive state as opposed to one of question.
The fans need to know, and truly believe that the losing history associated with the Toronto Raptors is in the past. Therefore Leweike needs to make whatever transactions he feels are necessary this offseason and wait to see what result will become of them. If the product is a winning one, then next year will be the year to come in with a complete new identity for the team. If it’s a losing one, Casey will be out, and in comes a big name coach looking to change the culture of the team once again.
The bottom line is whether there is a name change or not, this team needs a change of culture, a form of identity, and a revamped brand.