Why the College Football Playoff has a generic name

Dan Weissmann Jan 12, 2015
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Why the College Football Playoff has a generic name

Dan Weissmann Jan 12, 2015
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For a major sporting event, the College Football Playoff National Championship, which debuts January 9, has an extremely generic name. We asked some specialists to chime in with other ideas. 

Alexandra Watkins — who runs the brand-naming consultancy Eat My Words and wrote the book “Hello My name is Awesome started brainstorming right away.

“How about Goldfish Bowl?” she asks. “Is that taken? And Mixing Bowl? I also like Punch Bowl, because it’s kind of aggressive.”

I hate to tell her that they had two years to settle on College Football Playoff. 

“No!” she says. “Please tell me nobody paid for that name. Are you kidding me?” She thinks all the good ideas must have been shot down in meetings.

In fairness, starting with a generic name has worked before. The first Super Bowl was officially just the AFL-NFL Championship Game, recalls Michael Oriard, a retired English professor, former NFL player, and author of the book “Brand NFL.”  

Also, the tournament now called “March Madness” was simply the Men’s Division I Basketball Championship when the National Collegiate Athletic Association first introduced it.

“The NCAA couldn’t invent March Madness,” says Oriard. “It had to emerge over time. So my guess is the College Football Playoff will acquire some jazzier, sexier title at some point.”

A dissenting view comes from David Placek, arguably the biggest name in brand names. He is president of the brand-naming company Lexicon, which claims successes like Procter & Gamble’s Febreze and Swiffer cleaning products, Coca-Cola’s Dasani water, and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry phone.

“Why give someone else the power to name something that you’ve created?” says Placek. “I would want to take the responsibility and keep the power in my own organization, and start off with something that provokes people more.”

His first thought: Platinum Bowl. 


We asked you to come up with a better (or at least more interesting) name for the game on Twitter, and here are the results:

Some thought the huge price tag of collegiate sports should be highlighted:

Others pointed to the pro-football feel of the game:

Some thought the name should capitalize on marketing possibilities:

…And then there’s these:

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