Sporting Kansas City: What’s In A Name?

One of the announcements that fluttered out during the buildup to the MLS Cup was that the Kansas City Wizards would christen their new stadium with a new brand name for their franchise. The name they picked? Sporting Kansas City.

“Our mission is to connect Kansas City to the premier professional sports experiences in the Midwest,” Sporting President Robb Heineman said. “We look forward to sharing more exciting news about future events and to hosting all our great fans in our new home upon its opening in June.”

By now, many bloggers and pundits have dogged the rebrand. In fact, I do find myself saying, “What kind of sense does that name make?” Is the entire city, “Sporting?” Are they out hitting the golf ball, or throwing the bocce ball? Are they wearing clothes (I hope)?

Upon further review, the name is a reference to “Sporting Lisbon,” as those outside of the Portuguese-speaking world call it. Of course, the literal translation of the official name of the model club is, “Sports Club Of Portugal,” or in the colloquial sense, “Portugal Sports Club.”

Suffice it to say, the name “Kansas City Sports Club,” would ring much truer to American sensibilities. In fact, in this age of Europeanized names in American soccer, the only one that works for me is “Football Club.” It’s easy. People understand “Football Club,” they know it’s not pigskin and goalposts. They know that they won’t have to pay $1,500 application deposit, followed by another $1,000 for an initiation fee, and finally the $10,000 yearly dues to maintain their membership. It’s a team. (If Sporting KC is going to be a club where you have to pay that much, then I wish them good luck!)

What this boils down to is what appears to be a desire within the MLS to set itself apart from normal American sports nomenclature, while also paying homage to cultures where soccer works (and works very well). Unfortunately, it’s setting itself apart in a way that alienates rather than incorporates.

Take the Philadelphia Union for example. The Union has been a model for incorporating fans into the heart and soul of the franchise. By the time the Union took the field, the supporters had united to a front which allowed the team to open PPL Park to filled seats and boisterous fans. It also helps that the name makes sense for the city in the grand scheme, given its place in American history.

In the case of Kansas City, maybe the same type of initiative is coming aground. To me, Sporting KC doesn’t sound like something you’d find in Midwestern US. Can it really connect with the population? There has to be some local flair that would integrate the regional culture, and thus endear the club to its audience. If the MLS wants to succeed in reaching people, that should be the formula.

36 thoughts on “Sporting Kansas City: What’s In A Name?”

  1. It just seems they didn’t do a market survey on this before the launched the idea of “sporting kansas city”. It doesn’t connect with people and even as much as the wizards was an off name people eventually grew on it. Kansas city United or Kansas city Blues or anything else but “sporting” sounds posh and out of touch.

  2. It’s an improvement over “Wizards”. Let’s face it “Wizards” is lame. At least this way they standout, it’s better to standout (even if it means being mocked) rather than be ignored. Kind of like a parent that names their kid “Tiger” or “Kobe”. If KC achieves success then their name will become cool.

    1. Can we all at least agree they both suck?

      I will say that, while I’ve been convinced by other comments that “Sporting” is poseur-ish, the name and logo are still an improvement from the “Wizards” (UGH). Brand goes from a 2 to a 4 out of 10.

  3. what would be nice is if their logo actually did the first and most basic thing a logo is supposed to do…clearly communicate the brand/team name.

    according to that logo the team’s name is Kansas City Sporting SC.

    they are now firmly in a very small group of 2 MLS teams who’s team name cannot fully and correctly be deduced from the logo/crest. for some reason the Columbus Crew logo says The Crew instead of Columbus Crew. but that pales in comparison to this clusterf**k.

    it would be interesting to take a copy of this logo to a mall anywhere in America (or the world) and show it to random people and ask them “This is the new logo for a sports team, could you please look at it and tell me what the name of the team is?” I absolutely guarantee ZERO percent of the people would arrive at Sporting Kansas City or Sporting KC. that is a pretty f**king big problem when your brand name can’t clearly be understood from your logo. that is just some basic Design/Branding 101 shit right there.
    essentially this logo says the name is Kansas City Sporting Sporting Club. and it relegates the cornerstone concept of the team, Kansas City, to some teeny tiny mangled with forced perspective font that has been relegated to the very periphery of the logo. way to take a giant Wiz all over the core fan base and market you are trying to reach and make partners in your “Kansas City Sporting Sporting Club” endeavour.

    i definitely think that every soccer blogger, reporter, writer and pundit should continue to call the team Kansas City Sporting Sporting Club until they at least fix the f**king logo to actually read Sporting KC.

    1. True enough. But ignore what we know about these teams, and think of them in the same terms. These are all great names, but I’m just talking “vague logos” here. The Cowboys have a star, nothing else. The Saints use a freaking “Fleur De Lis”. A FLEUR DE LIS! Packers logo is a “G”, with no “B” or “P”. The Colts have a horseshoe. The Bills have a BUFFALO, which is the city, not the mascot, or maybe it’s the mascot.

      Now, let’s talk silly names. Oakland’s baseball team is called the “Athletics”. A PLURAL ADJECTIVE and it’s named after the PHILADELPHIA Athletic Club. That’s OK, they got a new team. The Philadelphia Phillies – the team name is a shorter version of the city name. The Philly Phillies. Boston and Chicago cheer for SOCKS, Cincinnati was originally the Red Stockings. Three teams named after SOCKS.

      The Utah Jazz logo is MOUNTAINS. Now go try to find a jazz club in Utah, or a bar for that matter. The Cleveland Browns wear orange helmets. Here in Los Angeles we cheer for a team named after Minnesota’s geography and also for the Brooklyn transit system.

      Then of course my favorite: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Did anyone take Spanish? Here is the meaning of each word in English: The The Angels Angels of Anaheim. I guess that’s what it would sound like through a stadium PA anyway.

      And for anyone in Kansas City who thinks the name sounds too “European”, while your baseball team name is livestock-related, they’re still called The Kansas City Royals. Apohpohpoh.

      1. I don’t get your point, because other names are dated or irellevant due to moves of the franchise, you think Sporting is a good choice ?

        Or are you saying it is a very dumb name, don’t make the same mistake as the dated Red Stockings by going with a name of a club that was created in 1906 ? Don’t use a name that is irrelevant to the location like the Lakers of LA ?

        Seems like the latter makes more sense to me.

          1. …also the Cincinnati Reds (Red Stockings)were America’s first pro baseball team. They’re older than the Red Sox by almost 40 years. Yup.

          2. I think ScoJo77’s point is spot on. Why is everybody getting their titties in a twister about the name “Sporting”? If someone can point me to evidence that they were doing the same thing when Kansas City (and I’m getting the distinct impression that KC fans aren’t even involved in this conversation) named their team something as completely childish and inane as “The Wiz” (uh, the movie starring MJ, or the cheese?) then maybe, well… whatever.

            But, it’s true. If we’re all going to get up in arms about a name, we shouldn’t be determined only to call out our American soccer team names.

            And any name can sound terrible until they become the flash of the league.

            And what’s the problem with the SC? Soccer Club? Big deal. The Chicago Fire Soccer Club did that, too.

          3. Good point thanks.

            Unless however they go out of business because Americans couldn’t figure out why people were trying to push a foreign game on them. Nah that would never happen. 😉

      2. I agree with your point, but you’re cracking on some team logos and names that make perfect sense to those that live there. The fleur de lis reflects the French culture of the city and many of the citizens of New Orleans. As a life long Saints fan, I’ve always felt that’s what made it unique and really cool.

        Plus I think you left off my favorite nonsensical team name – Memphis Grizzlies.

    2. Agreed – I look at that logo, and it seems to say Kansas City Sporting SC. What does the SC stand for?

      The whole name is completely convoluted. KC Wizards was fine.

  4. Wizard’s name was fine with me, but if the consensus is that is sucks.
    Vote on another name.
    Just coming up with Sporting because some guy in a supporters group thought it was a good idea or however the process went was a dumb idea.

  5. I would buy a Sporting Kansas City jersey. I would never buy a Kansas City Wizards jersey. That might be the ultimate test of a re-branding.

  6. great article! you hit the nail on the head, it’s embarrassing. how could someone who consider themselves a marketer even go through with this decision? soccer knowledge or not, this is awful and how could no one with some knowledge not tell whomever is in charge of this decision to stop.

  7. It’s likely too late at this point for them to change anything. Personally, I think their kit looks good. Don’t get me wrong, I hope that as Sporting KC they are a success. I hope the fans get behind the team. Our country’s soccer program needs clubs like Sporting KC to succeed, to make an impact on the youth, and to compete in a national sports market that is pretty saturated and make inroads. At this point I have to hope that MLS and the management in KC have their finger on the pulse of the community and can prove my doubts wrong.

  8. Teams that are called “Sporting” or “Sporting Club” are called such because the professional team sprung out of an actual club, as the writer of this article pointed out. That club contained more than soccer, it just so happened that the soccer team took off and became popular and successful. So to suddenly spring out of nowhere with this “Sporting Kansas City” stuff…it’s just disingenuous. It makes them look ignorant of the history they’re purportedly trying to honor. It’d be like if I suddenly started calling myself Dr. even though I haven’t been to medical school.

    What it all boils down to is the MLS looking like a bunch of posers with these names. These teams are like a teenager who got a leather jacket so he can pretend to be tough. Real Salt Lake? Sporting Kansas City? Stop trying to fit in and just be you.

      1. What, you mean the Dallas Cowboys aren’t actually cattle ranchers???

        Only kidding. I think Sporting is a stupid name, for all of the reasons mentioned already. It’s so convoluted too – a team in an English-speaking country naming themselves after the English approximation of the name of a Portuguese club that was named in a deliberately English way.

  9. Although the name “Wizards” quasi fit the team regionally, it seemed too juvenile and simplistic given how passionate and cerebral soccer is and how far MLS has come to be a very respectable league. So a name change did make sense especially with a new stadium opening up.

    However, i disagree with most that the new name sucks. I think it makes sense. Look, the casual sports fan in KC that hates soccer will always hate soccer and the name is only reason 101 why they do. You’re never getting these. The hard-core fans are going to grumble a little bit but they’ll all be on board. But for the casual soccer fan, or the American Euro-snob fan the name will have a familiarity to it and give the team some relevance.

    New teams being added to the league in recent years have been trending towards that international nomenclature to give the teams more weight and soccer fans have embraced it and is pretty cool. If you think about it, back in ’96 whether you loved them or hated them, the coolest team name was D.C. United. It just sounded international and whispered of Manchester glory.

    So i think picking the name was a rather easy discussion. FC, CD, United and Real are already used so the next one to use was Sporting. Now they’re the 1st and only team to have that title. Give it a little time, it’s actually pretty cool.

    The logo/shield, on the other hand, is ATROCIOUS. There is NO “K” in that symbol. I think if the logo would’ve been a home-run the name change would have gone done much easier. That’s too bad. Someone should get fired in their marketing department.

    1. PP: It actually Kansas City Sporting.
      I will assume that you switch to that too and mark you up as a Kansas City Sporting supporter.

      Dan: Maybe they are trying to branch out after not making the playoffs in soccer.

  10. Actually Wiki has it as Sporting Kansas City. Who cares ? I am calling them the Wizards.

    But how about this big news:
    The “Sporting” implies that the soccer club will be part of a larger sports umbrella. At the rebrand announcement, the team’s president announced plans to add a rugby club and lacrosse club.

    1. “The “Sporting” implies that the soccer club will be part of a larger sports umbrella. At the rebrand announcement, the team’s president announced plans to add a rugby club and lacrosse club.”

      This is a crucial consideration in whether Sporting is “correct”.

  11. The name translates to (Club) Deportivo Kansas City. If the league wants to market itself to further the Hispanic community this is a good thing and it is far better than “The Wiz” or “Wizards”. That said, the logo is terrible and looks more like the Eastern Comfernce shield (which I also loathe). If I was a KC supporter I might have issues, but for neutrals and “national” commentators, I don’t see the issue.

  12. I love the new logo and new name. More importantly, I showed my wife the before and after names and logos and she loves the new name and logo better, too. This might bring in more fans, despite the critics hating on the logo.

    The logo looks more modern, with a call back to being just a badge like historical football teams. I don’t need names and looks to be Americanized like everyone else seems to, I think the distinction of being different from what is accepted here is going to gather just as much attention and benefit the team overall.

    I give it a thumbs up.

  13. I’m neutral to KC, so my perspective will be different, but I like the new name. The badge is a bit hyper modern for my taste – I applaud its symbolism but that’s about it, though there are FAR worse badges in MLS (Columbus Crew, NE Revolution). I appreciate what the parent organization is trying to do by creating a unified athletics umbrella for future KC franchises, so I think it works there. And just because an organization is handing the fans a mascot or nickname like every other pro sports teams in the US, doesn’t mean fans can’t still call them the Wizards (though that name has always defied logic to me).

    I agree with DJ Allen – I personally don’t need everything I see or touch to be screaming with American style and appearance, as far as I’m concerned the way clubs and leagues in Europe are presented and considered more apart of the local landscape while mixing tradition, history, and modernism is great. Do I think we need to copy the Euros? No. Do we need to be entirely independent of their way of thought when it comes to soccer? No.

    I think it gives KC fans a greater brand under which to identify themselves. They’ll develop their own nickname for the team, as it should be. Nobody needs to panic now that a slightly less familiar way to identify the team is being brought about.

  14. Faux european names for MLS teams are ridiculous. Real Madrid and Sporting Lisbon are named that way for historical reasons. Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City lack that history and pedigree, and they don’t acquire it by aping european team names. What’s next, Pittsburgh Saint-Germain?

  15. It’s still awful… the name, the logo, and the ugly uniforms! I
    won’t be “sporting” any of their fan gear.

  16. How about a follow up to this story? It seems that KC fans have
    really embraced the team, the logo, the name, and the stadium; and
    Major League Soccer is becoming more and more popular in Kansas
    City – but it also doesn’t hurt when you are the only pro sports
    team in town that has won a playoff game in over 15 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *