The Washington football team has lost another battle in their fight to keep the Redskins name.
“This is a huge win in this case, ” said Alicia Jessop, who teaches Sports Law and Sports Governance at the University of Miami. “If you look at the case that came before in Harjo v. Pro Football, Inc., I think a lot of people didn’t think the Patent and Trademark Office would decide the way it did today, so it is pretty surprising.”
So if the Redskins need to change the name, how much will it cost the franchise?
“The biggest cost is not developing a new name and mark,” said Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor Associates, whose past clients include the NFL. “The biggest cost by far is applying it to all the points of touch that a brand like the Redskins exists on: merchandise, signage, training facilities and the stadium. That would be several million dollars, probably under $5 million. They can do it aggressively in six months, sometimes even less. Sometimes it can take a couple years to do the transition.”
Even double that amount would be a drop in the bucket for a team Forbes considers the eighth most valuable franchise in all of sport and third most valuable football franchise.
Court costs, on the other hand, could dwarf the re-branding costs.
“A good patent and trademark attorney costs $300 per hour on the low end and four figures an hour on the high end,” explains Jessop. “It is expected Redskins will appeal this. Depending on how that appeals turns I could see this battle going all the way to the Supreme Court. Whether the Court chooses to hear the case is another issue but it could cost millions to fight legally.”
But once the smoke clears, we could see the franchise emerge even stronger than ever before.
“The sports landscape is becoming a lot more socially aware and conscious,” said Jessop. “If you look at what happened in the NBA, for instance, when Jason Collins became the first openly gay player to play professional sports in America, even though he was only averaging a few minutes per game, his jersey was the highest selling jersey on the NBA’s Web site. What that shows to me is there are people who might not be the most dedicated sports fans but they get involved in the social justice stories involved in sports. If the Redskins do change their name there could be an uptick in sales.”
The NFL doesn’t make their revenue figures public, but the Green Bay Packers — being the league’s only publicly owned, nonprofit company — must release an annual report every year. According to reports, the team saw their share of licensing, merchandising and other national revenue grow from $14.5 million to $45.8 million in 2011. At the time, Forbes valued the Packers at $1 billion, so using the Packer’s merchandising revenue as a multiple of value estimates the Redskins could receive somewhere between $70 and $80 million.
But how would a name change and the ensuing court battle affect their valuation?
“It wouldn’t,” said Michael Ozanian, Forbes Executive Editor. “Revenues will be the same and profitability will be the same because of the salary cap. It is an opportunity to move forward with a brand that has a positive connotation.”
“So much of the league’s money now is split evenly among the teams from national TV and from revenue that is split evenly among all the teams I don’t see it being a negative,” continued Ozanian. “In fact, the Redskins have had such a poor team over the past decade, it could be a positive. The Redskins have a long history but necessarily a positive one at this point. If they were to change their name and becomes a perennial playoff team or Super Bowl contender it could be a plus for them because any new name they have will only have a positive connotation.”
“It’s not about selling more merchandise right out of the gate,” cautions David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California. “It’s about how this team is going to be perceived on national basis in terms of handling a extremely delicate situation. It has to be a process that is embraced by all the teams stakeholders, or no matter what they end up calling the team it will still fall short.”
More on the trademarks decision:
The Early Lead: What does the decision mean?
Volokh Conspiracy:A law professor’s take on the ruling
D.C. Sports Bog: John Kent Cooke was once deposed about the name