Unless you live in Texas or are familiar with Mexican history, that year means little to you. To those of Mexican heritage, it reminds them of the year their ancestors lost a lot of their homeland to English-speaking settlers, to end up as what would become the southwest United States. Then again, to some insular rich white guys, its also the year of a great anglo triumph.
Houston’s new soccer team learned that the year is still a sore subject among many Houston Hispanics, who make up a large portion of the prospective ticket buyers for the new team. Of course, typically, the importance of marketing, marketing research, and understanding your audience was lost on the managers of the new team, as they elected to celebrate Houston’s founding year by naming the team, ‘1836’.
It’s a stupid name. (And I’m well aware that other franchises tie into years as well, such as Germany’s Hannover 96, or the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers. But really, they’re stupid names too.) But moreover is the complete lack of consideration given to the prospective audience. For me, it's a nauseating lack of consideration given basic marketing, a clear self-oriented presumption, and the overwhelmingly unrepentant attitude of the franchise. Quoted in the New York Times, franchise president Oliver Luck stated, "We were aware of the possibility of the double entendre, but at the end of the day we believe 1836 is significant because it was the year of Houston's founding.” He goes on to support my contention that this was a very self-indulgent and ignorant choice, emphasis mine: "We spent a lot of time on this internally. By no means was it intended as a slight." Best intentions or not, this team already has a fight on its hands. Unfortunately, it isn’t a sports rivalry, but one with its own fans.
You could argue that this is political correctness gone too far, but in the end it only reflects the concerns of a community critically important to the franchise. You might think that some ten generations later it would be water under the bridge, but then you could make the same argument regarding historical memories the world over. Try to get a NASCAR team in Georgia named ‘Atlanta 1865’ or a baseball team in Japan named ‘Nagasaki 1945’.
Just add this to the common list of translation and cultural advertising and branding blunders with which we are so familiar. Put the visors back on the money men and give the responsibility for launching a brand back on marketing where it belongs.
Good lord, people, if ‘marketing is easy’, why do you who contend that do it so damn badly?