Naming In The News

So To Speak: Name of Game Should Be Sacked

January 6, 2008
By Joe Blundo
The Columbus Dispatch

It takes pro football three syllables to describe its ultimate game: Super Bowl.

It takes college football 12: Allstate BCS National Championship. (And sometimes, they add game to make it 13.)

I'll say one thing for the name: It perfectly reflects the awkwardness of the process behind it.

Most sports settle things by actual competition. College football, for monetary reasons, prefers a bizarre mix of competition, computer analysis and popularity contest.

(If World War II had been fought this way, Germany might have finished ahead of Great Britain based on strength of schedule.)

And then, when all the analyzing and voting are done, two teams meet in a climactic struggle whose name evokes, um, corn chips or car insurance or whatever else the sponsor is pushing.

It really doesn't take an expert to determine that the game's name is awful, but I consulted a couple anyway. Their verdict: Yep, it's awful.

"Shorter is always better in naming. Simpler is always better," said Steve Rivkin, New Jersey co-author of The Making of a Name: The Inside Story of the Brands We Buy, a book on what makes a good name.

He said the BCS ought to follow the example of his favorite sports championship name: college basketball's Final Four.

"It's memorable because it's alliterative, because it paints a crisp mental image — and because it's a little threatening." (The experts are big on names that evoke emotion.)

The masterminds behind Allstate BCS National Championship managed to violate most of the principles of good naming, agreed William Lozito, president and co-founder of Strategic Name Development in Minneapolis. (It named the Baconator for Wendy's.)

Among the violations he cited:

  • Too many syllables. "Once you get past five, generally speaking, people can't remember it."
  • The BCS part. "People have a difficult time remembering acronyms."
  • Lack of the meaningful word bowl. " Bowl says it's something special. It's like introducing a cereal and not calling it cereal."

True, bowl is implied in BCS (Bowl Championship Series) , so you could argue that the creators were trying to avoid redundancy. On the other hand, championship is also implied in BCS, yet it appears two words later anyway.

And this year, there's the unfortunate pairing of state and national, owing to the name of the sponsor. (What if it had been International Truck and Engine? Would it be the International BCS National Championship?)

Corporate sponsorship does bad things for many bowl-game names, Lozito said.

His nominee for one of the silliest bowl names of the year: San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. (The game lasted four quarters; people trying to pronounce it had to go into double overtime.)

Lozito said if he were naming the final game, he'd call it the National Championship Bowl.

But for now, we'll just have to call it a mess.