"Is that an airplane deal if you get season tickets you get free airfare to somewhere?"
"Is it the name of the actual flight for when the Utah Jazz's players fly somewhere? Like 44 United?"
"Is it 44 total players ... no that doesn't make sense. Is it 44 sections of Vivint Arena united cheering for the Utah Jazz?"
"Was Salt Lake City established in 1844?"
"It can't be 44 games because there's 82 games in a season."
"It is 44 games in a season."
"44 games you purchase, 3 preseason, 41 home."
"But they're not united. It's not like you go to 44 games at the same time. You're not united. It's consecutive. That makes zero sense."
"That's just terrible."
"Do they know it doesn't make sense without an explanation?"
"I don't know."
That is the actual conversation I had with my wife this year when she started to notice the Utah Jazz's #44United campaign. Up until this time she had thought it was sponsored by United Airlines or was referring to a flight number that held historical significance to the Utah Jazz. Lest the Utah Jazz think she is not their target market, she just recently started watching Utah Jazz games this year and started asking how one goes about purchasing Season Tickets. When she asked that, despite watching numerous Utah Jazz telecasts, she never once assigned any significance of 44 United into her investigative process.
I've said many times in the past that it's not a name that is easily associated with basketball, the NBA, and the Utah Jazz. Others have said the same thing.
Should note that the Jazz are also doing some season-ticket sales stuff that night for their poorly named #44FansUnited club.— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) March 30, 2016
The only plus about the really bad #44United Jazz season ticket holder motto is that it forces the team to have 3 home preseason games.— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) July 28, 2015
It feels like Jazz cater to season-ticket holders and not to the fan base on a whole. I think that's a problem. Looking at you, #44United.— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) January 20, 2015
At least the Jazz aren't including preseason wins on Jerry Sloan's banner. #44united— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) January 27, 2014
I appreciate @jmb247 explaining to me what #44united means. My response: Huh?— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) October 9, 2013
These are but a few of the issues. Those are the only ones that use the actual 44 United. A quick Twitter search renders that most people writing 44 United are talking about a soccer team United being at the '44. A quick google search renders that most people are searching that term to find out about how to pass their law exam for the 44 United States Code which coincidentally, and I'm not making this stuff up, refers to cryptology.
More generally, cryptography is about constructing and analyzing protocols that prevent third parties or the public from reading private messages.
So why is 44 United named 44 United? I don't know, but I can tell you why it doesn't resonate and achieve its objective.
Simplicity and Association
The 44 United name does not strike any familiarity with basketball, the NBA, and the Utah Jazz. So why name something like that? In branding you want to have a name that calls back to something. For example, the name Fiesta was already associated with having a party. So when Ford names a car fiesta it has that connotation. The season ticket holder "club" does not need to be the Utah Jazz Fans Club For People Who Basketball Jazzy Style, but it needs to evoke some extra familiarity and meaningfulness.
Brand names will instantly bring a familiarity with what already exist in our minds. So let's do that same exercise with 44 United. What do normal people associate with the words 44 and United?
What comes to mind with United?
United Airlines Flight 175**
United Airlines Flight 93**
**Flight used to in the 9/11 attacks
***Professional Soccer Team
What about 4?
What about 44?
Pistol Pete Maravich
The only basketball associated item that United calls back to is the United Center, the arena where the Chicago Bulls play, which if you're a Jazz fan is a home of terrible memories. United also calls back terrible memories such as the flights of the airlines used in the 9/11 attacks. Not exactly great imagery. While those events and that arena do not have United trademarked until the end of time, they are easily recalled and the Utah Jazz's target season ticket audience will remember these names loud and clear.
The words 4 and 44 don't evoke any basketball imagery and instead evoke websites, player's numbers, band names, and Sesame Street if you're a fan of counting. Only one Utah Jazz player wore the number 44 and that was Allan Bristol in 1980-1981. You might think that Pistol Pete Maravich was a Utah Jazz player but he was a New Orleans Jazz player. Part of the history, but not common knowledge to most Jazz fans because of the separation of New Orleans Jazz players and Utah Jazz players.
When something is not obvious to the consumer, they turn off. So how do brands that have a name like Apple but have nothing to do with what they sell (computers) get people to understand? You have to market your brand. So here's the part that doesn't make any sense.
The Utah Jazz are wanting to market Season Tickets. That's the goal. So they create a special club for people who get season tickets. This club is exclusive. They want people to join it. So they create 44 United. Which the name doesn't immediately call to any sort of Season Ticket Offering. It's not easy. It's not simple. So what do they have to do? They have to market and teach their audience what 44 United is. Get it? But here's the problem. They're not marketing Season Tickets at that point. They're marketing the brand, not the product. So much so that it doesn't make any sense. They overcomplicated something. It's not easy to relate it back to the Utah Jazz, the NBA, Season Tickets, or anything exclusive like a club. If after 3 years the first thing that people think of when they think of 44 United, even after marketing the brand 44 United for that same period, is still an airlines flight, then there's a need for a course correction.
44 United is too specific. The brand name doesn't allow it to breath. Hence it has very little transferability to other products and has trouble blending with the Jazz's other extensions. The Jazz have the following apt named extensions:
Jazz Green Team
Jazz Dunk Team
Locked On Jazz
Utah Jazz Drumline
Then out of all of those you have 44 United. Doesn't seem to fit right? What the Utah Jazz are doing with the Utah Jazz name is brand transferability. You can put Jazz on it and it takes on the good brand. The Season Tickets are already Jazz Season Tickets. So they wanted to name the club. The entity. So they tried to make a name that would call to the amount of time people spend together. 44 games, 3 preseason and 41 home games. Then these people are United. But the name fails because of its specificity.
It's too specific. So once you realize it's not being smart or coy with Jazz history, has nothing to do with seat sections, and shares a name with the United Center, it turns you off. The fact that it makes a club of Jazz fans in a higher rarified air also is a turnoff. The purpose of sports is to bring a group of people together for a united purpose (see what I did there?). Yet they use the word United in the opposite form. They use it specifically to refer to a small group of people. That's not unity that's segmentation. The 44 United name defeats itself because of how specific it is. It's contradictory. That's where having a specific name comes into play. It fails them.
The Utah Jazz put themselves into a corner with 44 United. They can't carry the group name that long either, especially with the preseason being shortened, or what happens if the Jazz are offered an additional home game? Your name then doesn't make any sense. You have 45 games, but you're 44 United. So what do you do? Do you as a team take an additional game but falsify your brand in the process? Do you name it 45 United and ruin any small brand equity you've earned in the 3 years you have stuck with this project? That's why the name is too specific.
Is It Unique and Distinctive?
No. United is such a buzzword. Watch any political campaign and you'll see tons of "We Must Stand United" or "United We Stand", or "Unite America". It's a buzzword. Using united for a cause is almost as generic as using innovative for your tech product. Oh, your product is innovative? Go on.
44 is unique only in the fact that so few people use it. Seriously. Google it. This is what you get.
Luckily all the Utah Jazz have to compete with is Title 44 of the United States code which as we already discussed is about cryptology which if the Utah Jazz were naming United 44 United after that would actually be the most damn near perfect explanation of why it should be named as such.
Here's what is frustrating about the Jazz's futile exercise in creating a unique name for their exclusive club:
Jazz music has an insanely rich history of exclusive clubs where you would go to listen to Jazz.
Sound familiar? It should because that's exactly what the Utah Jazz are trying to do. Create an exclusive club where you would go to watch the Jazz. Check out this excerpt on these exclusive Jazz clubs:
Despite its growing popularity, not all who lived in the Jazz Age were keen on the sound of jazz music, and especially of jazz clubs. By the advent of the 20th century, campaigns to censor the "devil's music" started to appear, prohibiting when and where jazz clubs could be built. For example, a Cincinnati home for expectant mothers won an injunction to prevent construction of a neighboring theater where jazz will be played, convincing a court that the music was dangerous to fetuses. By the end of the 1920s, at least 60 communities across the nation enacted laws prohibiting jazz in public dance halls.
Prohibition in 1920 fostered the emergence of the underground, gangster-run jazz clubs. These venues served alcohol, hired black musicians, and allowed whites, blacks and audiences of all social classes to mingle socially for the first time. Although the underground jazz clubs encouraged the intermingling of races in the Jazz Age, there were other jazz clubs, such as the Cotton Club in New York, that were white-only.
- Wikipedia, Emphasis Added (Mine)
What is so crazy is there were tons of iconic exclusive clubs that were Jazz clubs. The Utah Jazz can EASILY tap into that history while still applying it to their current situation. I don't know how their marketing department passed this up. This was served to them on a silver platter. They can take brand transferability from the Jazz name and apply it to this Jazz idea.
Imagery and Logo
I want you just to stare at this 44 United logo. What makes you think about basketball? What makes you think of the Utah Jazz. Or anything Jazz-related? Or Utah related?
Absolutely nothing. It doesn't call back with any Utah imagery, Jazz basketball imagery, or Jazz music imagery at all. It's just flat. It's boring. It's plain. This is probably the best example of 44 United looking like a flight number. I'd expect to see that on my boarding pass, not some cool exclusive club to mingle with other people. It's boring. It's flat. It's not dynamic. Probably the only advantage to this wordmark is they can change it to 45 or 43 really easily when games are added or taken away. But other than that there's nothing. Symbols are supposed to be easily recognizable and bring emotion. This looks like a boarding gate or something telling me what section I'm sitting in.
Where Does 44 United Go From Here?
Here's some interesting things with this exercise. If I were performing an engagement survey with 44 United I'd ask this string of questions?
Why did you name it 44 United?
Why do people not immediately associate it with your brand?
Why do people choose to be in an exclusive club?
Why name something united if you're creating a segment?
What does the word united mean to you?
Would you think this name associates with basketball? Why or why not?
Would you think your customers associate this name with basketball? Why or why not?
This simple stream would allow them to find some valuable insights and start to create something special. Now just with a quick branding exercise we can see that 44 United fails to resonate to a larger audience.
Now here's something that I found during this branding exercise that was absolutely beautiful.
As I said in the post, there have been plenty of iconic and exclusive Jazz clubs. There was a saying in New York that you didn't make it as a Jazz musician until you made it in these clubs. There were tons of iconic ones such as the Cotton Club, Club DeLuxe, Cafè Society, The Royal Roost, The Starting Five, and Bradley's. One of those names would work great as a name for an exclusive club to see Jazz.
But there's one tailor made for the Utah Jazz just sitting there, forgotten by history, but ready to be made whole again.
The Half Note
Yes there was a club named The Half Note. It's almost so simple, elegant, and beautiful I can't believe I found it with a quick google search. Think about it. It hits all the right notes, pun intended.
It's simple, easy to associate with Jazz, and recognizable. The Utah Jazz's logo is a note. It's not too specific like referring to the exact number of games that a Jazz season ticket holder would watch but broad enough to get the point across. When you are a season ticket holder you get to watch half of your team's games at home. That's season tickets right there. It still refers about the team while referring to The Note.
It's unique and distinctive. It makes it sound exclusive yet inclusive enough to want to join it and not resent it. In essence the half note is one step larger than the Utah Jazz's note. The Utah Jazz's note is a
quarter eighth note. The half note can refer to the greater whole. While all ticket purchasers can be described as the whole note. It fits musically, it fits in terms of the team, and in exclusivity.
Just think of what they Jazz could do with that imagery. Right now 44 United has this exclusive place called the 44 United Membership center. The Utah Jazz literally have a Jazz club that's not a Jazz club and is named after a flight number. Imagine instead that this Membership Center is a real Jazz club inside the arena. With all the amazing imagery it brings. The warm lighting, an in house Jazz band, bar seating (serving non-alchololic drinks as well for the those like me that don't drink), a place where people can dance, and socialize before the game. Like an actual Jazz club. They could do promotions around it where people dress up like they're going to a Jazz club. Have a dapper day around it. Make it exclusive and fun. Imagine all of the exclusive memorabilia Half Note members could get that would be almost prohibition era themed with the extra Jazz imagery?
Making a change like this would be difficult, but it'd be beautiful. It'd call back to Jazz's history. It would engage all fans and make it a club they want to join. A club they want to be a part of. And it's right there in front of the Utah Jazz.