How the NFL championship game came to be known as the Super Bowl is the stuff of marketing legend. The game was formed in 1966 when two rival American football organizations, the NFL and AFL, agreed that the best teams of each league would square off against each other in a championship. But as most recently reported by Allen St. John, author of The Billion Dollar Game, no one could agree on what to call the contest. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle favored the bland “The Big One.” (Yes, if he’d had his way, in 2009 the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers would be playing in Big One XLIII.)
Fortunately, Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, had a better idea. Inspired by watching his children playing with a bouncing ball called a Super Ball, he half-jokingly suggested the name The Super Bowl — in retrospect, a bold, even arrogant suggestion for a game that had zero credibility at the time. Well, the name stuck. And you know the rest of the story.
I find the naming of the Super Bowl to be fascinating from a marketing standpoint. A name is perhaps the most important element of a brand (next to performance). And yet in my experience as a marketing executive, creating a memorable name can be confounding. As charming as the Lamar Hunt anecdote is, I have also seen terrible names result from the same kind of capricious decision making-process that went into the naming of the Super Bowl. At the same time, hideous brand names have resulted from expensive, seemingly well organized research, too.
What’s the most effective process you’ve seen for formulating a brand name? What’s your favorite naming anecdote?