Responsible branding: Redskins, Eskimo Pie, Aunt Jemima

This month’s GreenBiz.com column by NI’s Michael Kramer takes a look at the growing calls for the Washington Redskins to change their name, including a recent shareholder resolution at FedEx, which owns the “naming rights” to the Redskin’s stadium.  As usual, you’ll need to pop over to the GreenBiz site to read the whole thing, but here’s a taste:

After years of a behind-the-scenes advocacy by Native American tribes and socially responsible investors — including a 10-year legal battle that temporarily subsided with the 2009 Pro Football v. Harjo case the Supreme Court refused to hear — the pressure on the team owner, and FedEx as named sponsor of its stadium, has ratcheted up a notch in recent months. Goodell and major sports television network columnists have indicated the issue should be examined. NBC commentator Bob Costas — the voice of NBC’s Olympics coverage — and President Barack Obama recently publicly suggested that Snyder change the team name.

The pressure to change a team name is mounting not just on the Redskins, but other professional sports teams as well, including the Cleveland Indians, whose mascot is a caricature known as Chief Wahoo, and the Atlanta Braves, whose tomahawk logo combined with fans’ derogatory karate chop and tribal rally chant are widely regarded as the most offensive fan behavior in professional sports.

…ongoing negative publicity does harm the brand of any company.  Stroh’s found this out with its now defunct Crazy Horse malt liquor. Sambo’s (which was like Denny’s back in the 1960s and ’70s) also went under. And while it remains to be seen if Cadbury Pascall will rebrand Eskimo Pie or Tootsie Roll will remove the bow-and-arrow-wielding Native American from its Tootsie Pop wrapper, sports franchises are the current target of advocacy because of their high level of visibility and the proliferation of merchandising.

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Jim Cummings

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