The times they are a changin'. Is the name of the team on the table as well?
Bucks are graceful, swift, elegant; all positive qualities of basketball. However, deer are prey animals, almost universally noted for their timidness. The imagery conjured, and that evoked by lazy sportswriters, is not positive. Caught in the headlights, running scared, the Bucks stop here, these are the headlines that come to mind. I don't want to throw away a half century of tradition, but this is the time to discuss such matters. Herb Kohl is gone. The Bradley Center will be gone. The new arena's naming rights will be sold to the highest bidder. Maybe it's time to discuss if we should remain the Milwaukee Bucks?
What's in a name?
In the era of the global economy, a whole lot. Branding is an essential part of marketing an international product. Stars sell jerseys, followed by markets; the Bucks will not outsell the Heat and the Lakers. However, with a strong enough brand, the new Bucks could easily outsell teams like the Wizards and Magic, brands which are a joke to the casual consumer. Why do jersey sales matter? They are an indication of a team's popularity, an easy way to tally international appeal.
Right now, the Bucks' brand is garbage. We've lost the interest of the casual Wisconsin fan through years of mediocrity. The good years, from Kareem to Moncrief, are long past. It has been fifteen years since anyone outside of Wisconsin has taken us seriously. The ownership change will stir up interest on a local level, however to reach alternate markets the team might need to make a more drastic change to merit conversation. Small markets need to pursue all strategies, a name change is a simple way to generate interest.
Of course, a name change can be a PR disaster if not done right. Imagine how bad it would have been if Marquette had gone through with calling themselves the Gold. Just the possibility of an embarrassing name change can hurt the team's brand, so it has to be done with tact.
An Antetokounmpo by Any Other Name Would Dunk as Sweet
A name is just a name, so the Bucks would still be responsible for the renaissance of their brand. When the Sonics became the Thunder, Kevin Durant demanded that you take the name seriously. Still, a name can have psychological significance, it can affect how free agents and fans view the team. If we did decide to change the name, we could go in several directions:
Appeal to History: This would be for the fans at home. We could draw on some part of Wisconsin's rich history to evoke a sense of the eternal. This being Wisconsin, the name could harken to our trapper roots, our relationship with dairy and agriculture, or our near polar seasonal remoteness.
Appeal to Badassery: This was the primary tactic of the 90s franchises (not including the Magic). Find something in the public domain that is noted for its awesomeness and name your team after it. This works if you want to appeal to 3rd graders. The Raptors, Grizzlies, and Hornets were awesome to my prepubescent mind. Less so in retrospect.
Appeal to Fear: Similar to the last, but the name is chosen more for effect on opponents. The right choice could strike fear into the hearts of the opposition, though misapplication could turn off fans or appear comical (see the scary Pelican).
Appeal to Corporate Interests: This is the lamest approach, though most in step with the times. This is the era of the Kia MVP, after all. The Bucks could sell their name off to the highest bidder, who would use our team to further their own brand.