The Washington Football Team has teased its long-awaited rebranding for months—but good luck to anyone trying to uncover the NFL club’s new name before next week’s official announcement.
Sports franchises and other businesses resort to extreme measures to keep interlopers at bay ahead of a big trademark announcement. Protecting a new name can mean using innocuous-sounding limited liability companies and registering in far-off nations that don’t have easily searched databases, such as Tonga or Trinidad and Tobago. Cleveland’s Major League Baseball club filed in Mauritius when it renamed the team the Guardians.
“You want to have your decision and branding well thought out instead of having everybody weigh in on it,” said Monica Riva Talley, head of Sterne Kessler’s trademark and brand protection practice. “There’s the element of being able to release it on your own terms and control the message.”
The Washington team is planning a splashy unveiling of the new name on Feb. 2 and has been teasing fans with a video showing sly partial images of its new uniform and helmets that keep its traditional burgundy and gold colors—but not the name. It’s a critical move to protect the brand for a team that Forbes has valued at $4.2 billion.