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“Chief Wahoo” Re-Branding Underway? A Painful Lesson on Saving Face

Posted in Advertising, Branding, First Amendment, Marketing, Trademarks

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A picture can say a thousand words; so does a face. The same is probably true of non-verbal logos, including the several federally-registered "Chief Wahoo" logos, shown above (all apparently still in use by the "Cleveland Indians" professional baseball team, according to their latest trademark filings).

So, what do they say to you?

My take? I can think of quite a few words to describe them, but none includes the word "honor," as is often the claim made by those in favor of keeping Native American mascots.

From my perspective, "Chief Wahoo" is the non-verbal equivalent of the Redskins racial slur that I blogged about last week.

Last month I blogged about Non-Verbal Logos That Can Stand Alone, and while "Wahoo" certainly can "stand alone" as a non-verbal logo, unlike the famous Nike Swoosh and McDonalds Golden Arches, "Wahoo" should simply "stand alone" in the corner of a dark closet with the door shut and locked.

More than a few have weighed in on the baseball team’s controversial continued use of "Chief Wahoo": Here ("Mascot League Baseball"), here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

It apparently took a Yankees fan to point out the "irony" of the "Cleveland Indians" signing a sixteen-year deal in 2008 to play ball in "Progressive Field" — the re-named "Jacobs Field" (in favor of the well-known and deep-pocketed Cleveland-based insurance company).

In addition, now that the team has relocated spring training to a new ball park in Goodyear, Arizona, it appears the team is de-emphasizing the Chief Wahoo logo, in favor of the innocuous "I" script and "C" block logos, although the team spokesman maintains that "Chief Wahoo" is not being "phased out." Could the diminished use of "Wahoo" have anything to do with the fact that Arizona has more Native American residents than every other state besides California and Oklahoma? Could it be the team is trying to save a little face with a gradual phase out, or re-brand, if you will?

Finally, the team’s MLB website shows a fairly sparse use of "Chief Wahoo," so why hang on at all?

Bottom line: If the team wants to save just a little bit of face, it ought to stop showing Wahoo’s face altogether, period.

  • joe

    Enough already with the whining about chief wahoo. If the people that petitioned against chief wahoo spent there time doing something positive instead of creating a problem where there isn’t one the world would be a better place.
    Go Tribe !!

  • http://mcbone.blogspot.com Nate

    Thanks for this. Chief Wahoo is a 60 year old slur that needs to vanish.
    nwb