Can Re-branding Exorcise Devils?


New name, fresh start? This philosophy seems to be behind the re-branding campaign recently announced by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays of Major League Baseball. Uh, wait, that is the Tampa Bay Rays (hold the Devil). The team is changing its name to "Rays" and unveiled a new logo and color scheme that it will don next season. The makeover is part of an effort by team owner Stu Steinberg to invigorate the franchise after years of mediocrity under previous ownership.

The Rays have nothing to lose by re-branding the team. AirTran was formerly known as Valujet, but a wave of negative publicity (including a fatal crash) left the Valujet name "valueless," so re-branding the airline in the late 1990s gave it a needed clean slate. Unfortunately, it takes more than renaming a product to enhance its value. If the Rays continue to be among the worst teams in MLB every season, then there is little marketing can do to influence the team's image.

Perhaps the wisdom of NBA star Allen Iverson applies here. When the NBA implemented a dress code for players, Iverson said "Put a murderer in a suit, and he's still a murderer." Following that logic, changing the name and uniform colors will not lead to a World Series championship.

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