Last Friday, while watching Rafael Nadal play Roger Federer for the Miami Masters semi-finals, I couldn’t help but to reflect on the enduring nature of brand names.
The Miami Masters, now called Sony Ericsson Open, was initially sponsored by Lipton and called Lipton International Players Championship (or simply, The Lipton). It carried that name until 1999. Since then, it’s changed sponsors and names several times: the Ericsson Open from 2000 to 2002, the NASDAQ-100 Open from 2003 to 2006, and finally the Sony Ericsson Open from 2006 until now.
The interesting thing is that people old enough to remember still commonly refer to it as The Lipton, as in: “are you going to The Lipton this year?” The tournament’s original moniker endures more than 10 years after it was changed!
Something similar happens to Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins. Originally named Joe Robbie Stadium in 1987, it has subsequently been called Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Land Shark Stadium and now Sun Life Stadium. Not surprisingly, many people still refer to it as Joe Robbie or Pro Player.
Finally, in yet another example of the enduring power of brand names-taken also from the world of sports, South America’s Copa Santander Libertadores, the oldest and most traditional soccer championship in the region, is still widely called Copa Libertadores (its name from the pre-sponsorship era) or, more affectionately: La Libertadores. The only ones who go to great lengths to squeeze in the sponsor’s name (Spain’s Banco de Santander) are sports announcers-for obvious reasons.
The lesson for companies, big and small, is this: if you have an established brand name and want to change it, make sure you have a very good reason, since it is most likely already embedded in your customers’ minds and won’t be replaced easily (or cheaply!). And, if you’re about to create a new brand, the best advice is this: choose carefully.