I have a confession: I love the Houston Texans.
It’s a confession because there is something wrong with the Houston Texans. I am not necessarily referring to their lack of success, though it plays a role in any teams’ likeability. It’s not the players.I know Watt is a bit polarizing, but Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins are as likable as they come. I really like Coach O’Brien. We even have a client that played for the Texans who is a great guy, and I sincerely hope I don’t offend him or any of his large friends.
My beef with the Texans is their brand.
As a boy from nowhere, I adopted the Green Bay Packers as my football team in 1993. This was the year they traded for a little-known rookie Quarterback named, Brett Favre. For the next 20 years, I rooted for the Packers as they won two Super Bowls with two different hall-of-fame quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers). In the NFL, there may be no easier team of which to be a fan.
I moved to Houston in 2008. After ten years of listening to Houston sports radio, the Houston Texans have infiltrated my fandom like an unwelcome fruit fly. I never asked for them to preoccupy my time on Sundays or my thoughts on Monday morning. They are, in many ways, the opposite of the Green Bay Packers. They are an expansion team created in 2002. They have no tradition. In the time that only Favre and Rodgers quarterbacked the Packers, the Texans have had 17 starting quarterbacks.
I don’t want to lose too many folks in the football details of this confession. This isn’t about football. It’s about brand.
The Packers are arguably the best brand in the NFL. When it comes to branding, your name is a good place to start. The Packers were named after the Acme Meat Packing Company in 1923. Conversely, the Houston Texans are named after… being from Texas. Which appears to be a strong name and a sound decision. Here is a quote from Bob McNair explaining the naming,
“We’ve developed a name and logo that fans throughout the area and around the country and world will embrace for years to come… The name and logo embody the pride, strength, independence, courage and achievement that make the people of Houston and our area special.”
And, this is exactly wrong. You can’t be everything to everyone (i.e. “around the country and world”). When name your team after an entire state, and your colors are red, white and blue, you are are the opposite of strength. You are compromise.
Conversely, the original team in Houston was unapologetically Houston. The Houston Oilers had a name that didn’t give a damn if it was nationally-accepted. And, because they didn’t care about being all things to everyone, they were loved all over. And, I can prove it. As the boy from nowhere (New Hampshire is pretty close to nowhere), I had a Houston Oilers Starter Jacket. I liked them the reason any boy loves a sports franchise — they were cool. They were baby blue and had a giant oil derrick as a logo. Even though I had no idea why or what any of that meant, I knew it was unique and not like anything I had seen before.
So, what’s the solution? As someone in the creative field, it’d make perfect sense for me to propose a new name, colors, uniforms, etc… but I can only imagine how many times that has been done to no avail. Instead, why don’t we just embrace the commonplace and even up the ante? Instead of the Texans, why don’t we just make sure we invite EVERYONE from EVERYWHERE to root for our team by renaming them the Houston Footballs? That way an elderly woman in French Guinea will not find the name confusing or inaccessible.
We want to make sure every single person ‘gets’ it, right? Because if we don’t dumb this thing down for every person who may or may not care, we might miss out on a potential fan. The Houston Footballs are for everyone, and if I know everyone, then I am pretty sure no one will like this team.