As the New Orleans Hornets made it official Thursday that they’ll become the Pelicans next season, there are still more questions than answers back in Charlotte:
When will the Bobcats complete their market research related to whether they’d want the Hornets nickname? The team isn’t saying, and team president Fred Whitfield said they won’t be commenting on that process.
Who controls the Hornets name, logo and colors after this season? Dennis Lauscha, president of the soon-to-be Pelicans, said that’s a question for the NBA office. The league responded only with a prepared statement from Mike Bass, vice president of communications, and Bass’ statement didn’t address that issue.
Bass said the NBA is “continuing to work with the Charlotte Bobcats on exploring whether a name change is in the long-term interest of their team.’’
Here’s what is known:
• The Bobcats have retained Harris Interactive to survey Bobcats season-ticket holders and the general Charlotte market about whether a name change would drive up ticket and merchandise sales.
• The Hornets – Charlotte’s first NBA team from 1988 through 2002 – become the Pelicans, with new logos and a blue, gold and red color scheme, at the start of the 2013-14 season. When Tom Benson bought the Hornets from the NBA last year, he asked commissioner David Stern to fast-track a rebranding to a name more tied to Louisiana. Normally the NBA wants two years lead time, but this name change took far less time.
• There’s abundant chatter around Charlotte that bringing the Hornets logo and teal-and-purple color scheme back here would be a welcome change. What’s not so clear is whether that translates into a significant boost in Bobcats revenue.
Whitfield told the Observer in December that a name change would cost the team at least $3 million to process. Whitfield didn’t detail what went into that estimate, and it’s unclear whether the Bobcats would have to pay anyone for the rights to the “Charlotte Hornets.’’
Lauscha, speaking on a national media conference call Thursday, declined to address whether the Bensons would have any position on the Bobcats becoming the Hornets or whether the Bensons hold any claim to those trademarks beyond this season.
It was apparent, based on the Hornets’ conference call, that the NBA’s two-year timetable to rebrand a team isn’t a hard rule. That could particularly apply to a Bobcats-to-Hornets shift because the name and other trademarks are already under NBA control.
NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver, who will succeed Stern as the league’s top executive next month, said as much during an April visit to Charlotte. Silver said if Bobcats owner Michael Jordan wants the Hornets label, “it’s something we would clearly look at.’’
In an October interview with the Observer, Jordan said he’d definitely explore that option once the Hornets chose a new nickname. “We’ve heard the community ask the question,’’ Jordan said of a name change, “and we would listen.’’
That “listening’’ is the polling Harris Interactive is now doing. The Observer obtained a copy of the extensive survey Harris emailed to season ticket-holders. It asked numerous questions about what would induce customers to spend more time and money on the Bobcats, but the crux of the survey seemed to be this question:
“If the Bobcats were to change their nickname to the ‘Hornets,’ would you attend more games than you currently do, attend fewer games, or attend about the same amount?’’
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