The Fort Wayne Mad Ants will remain the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
Despite a trend that has some NBA teams buying Developmental League teams and rebranding them with their own moniker, the Indiana Pacers have decided not do that with the Mad Ants, which it acquired this month.
While Fort Wayne and Allen County are important markets for the Pacers, the Mad Ants name simply has too much brand equity to scrap, said Pacers President Rick Fuson.
“People like the name Mad Ants and it’s an interesting name to say the least,” Fuson told IBJ. “We think it’s important to have the name Mad Ants attached to Fort Wayne. It has history there, and after all, it is a Fort Wayne team.”
When it was founded in 2007, the franchise held a name-the-team contest on its website in which fans could vote on one of the four finalists: Lightning, Fire, Coyotes, and Mad Ants. The winning name is a salute to the city’s namesake, Revolutionary War General “Mad” Anthony Wayne.
When the names were chosen during the month-long contest, Mad Ants “was clearly out front,” said Jeff Potter, who has been retained by the Pacers to be the team’s general manager.
The Mad Ants also have a colorful mascot, a sinister looking ant designed locally by Fort Wayne-based Excell Color Graphics, which fans have embraced.
It’s an important marketing decision for the Pacers to retain the Mad Ants name. Attaching its own moniker to the Fort Wayne team would have been a good way to promote the Pacers in an important market that is outside the 75-mile radius that defines where the Pacers are allowed to market under NBA rules.
There is a movement to loosen the league’s strict marketing regulations, but for now, Fort Wayne remains out of bounds for the Pacers.
Pacers officials do plan to have their team signage in the Mad Ants home venue—Allen County War Memorial Coliseum—and are working with the NBA on other ways they might be allowed to cross-promote with the D-League team.
“Allen County is a very important market for us in terms of ticket sales not just for the Pacers but for all of our events,” Fuson said.
Perhaps most importantly from a marketing standpoint, developing Pacers players will populate the Mad Ants roster from time to time and the Fort Wayne team will run the same type of offensive and defensive schemes as their parent club in Indianapolis.
“Fort Wayne will have their own coaching staff, but [Pacers president of basketball operations] Larry Bird and our coaches will be in constant contact with them,” Fuson said. “There’s going to be a lot of continuity.”
Just not with the name on the front of the jersey.