When Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan said Tuesday the support for a name change to Hornets was overwhelming, the numbers made his point.
Harris Interactive, a national polling group, surveyed season ticket holders, the team’s sponsors and the general Charlotte region on the nickname question. In each category a switch to “Charlotte Hornets” received about 80 percent support, according to marketing director Pete Guelli.
So about a month ago, Guelli and team President Fred Whitfield recommended to Jordan they request a name change. That became formal Tuesday, when Jordan announced they’d made an application to the NBA office.
It will take until July, the next time NBA owners meet, for a vote to take place. Based on past comments by incoming Commissioner Adam Silver, there’s little reason to think the league would have a problem with the Bobcats shifting to the name of Charlotte’s first NBA team.
Such a change can’t be implemented before the fall of 2014, as it takes about 18 months for the NBA to rebrand one of its teams. It’s still unclear whether the Bobcats would also take on the Hornets’ teal-and-purple color scheme.
Guelli said the team expects to spend about $4 million on this name change, a million more than it estimated several months ago. That figure reflects many new costs and some loss of merchandise revenue as the team liquidates its stock of caps and jerseys.
The rebranding will entail extensive re-painting of Time Warner Cable Arena.
“Every piece of this building will be looked at through a microscope,’’ Guelli said of the anticipated makeover.
Guelli said there’s a public misconception that the team can make back what it spends on a rebrand through new merchandise sales. He said the profit off licensed apparel is small enough that merchandise sales would not prompt this.
That 80 percent approval rating, for a team still looking to capture Charlotte’s imagination, did.
“Within reason I don’t think any amount of money would have deterred our owner once that data came in,” Guelli said.
The Bobcats haven’t seen a surge in ticket sales since the news started breaking last weekend, but “there’s been a lot more dialogue,” with the team’s sales force, he said. “The phones are very active.”
Jordan said his hope in pursuing the Hornets name is to move the atmosphere at Time Warner Cable Arena toward what it was like at Charlotte Coliseum when he played there as a Chicago Bull in the late ’80s and ’90s.
“When I first played here years ago, the thing I was totally astounded by was the energy. I wanted to bring that energy back,’’ Jordan said.
“(This decision) says a lot about how we’ve taken the input from our community and put that in action.”
Although Jordan sat in front of a purple-and-teal sign reading, “Bring the Buzz,” it’s still unclear whether the Bobcats would take on the Hornets’ old color scheme.
“We haven’t even discussed that right now,” Jordan said. “This is a first step. To say today we’ve come to that conclusion would not be an accurate statement.”
The name became available when the Hornets chose to be called the Pelicans starting next season. When New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson looked into buying the Hornets, he immediately told NBA officials he wanted a more Louisiana-oriented name. Once the NBA approved Pelicans, the Bobcats started investigating their own name change.
Jordan said the team wouldn’t try to assume the Hornets’ records from when they were in Charlotte, but is interested in embracing players from that era.
“When the time comes we want to incorporate some of the past,” Jordan said. “Dell (Curry) is with the team (as a television analyst) and I believe Muggsy (Bogues) is in town.”
Jordan acknowledged this name change is just one aspect of the many fixes the franchise needs. The Bobcats were an NBA-worst 28-120 over the past two seasons and will have their third head coach in as many seasons, after firing Mike Dunlap.
“I understand the name is a name. What we want to be proud of is what’s on the basketball court,” Jordan said. “I totally understand that. I’m not running away from that.”
Asked about churning through three coaches in three seasons, Jordan didn’t offer anything specific:
“I anticipate these guys (president of basketball operations Rod Higgins and general manager Rich Cho) have done their due diligence. I feel very confident these guys going through the process to make the right decision.”
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