By now, most of us have seen or heard about Seattle’s new hockey arena, formerly KeyArena, and the rather eyebrow-raising name it was given.

or Why Our New Hockey Arena’s Handle Leaves Us Cold

by James Halada, Creative Director

Originally appeared on LinkedIn; https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/whats-name-why-seattles-new-hockey-arenas-handle-us-cold-hainsworth


By now, most of us have seen or heard about Seattle’s new hockey arena, formerly KeyArena, and the rather eyebrow-raising name it was given.

For those who don’t know, Amazon ponied up the money for naming rights and, all credit to them, chose not to go down the self-aggrandizing path of calling it Amazon Arena. Quite the opposite, actually. They elected to give the arena a name designed to speak to something bigger and more globally relevant.

That name? Climate Pledge Arena. [Cue polite, slightly incredulous pause.]

From the response I’ve seen in the creative and broader civic communities the name has been a consensus flop. But why is that? Amazon took the high road by using this high-profile venue to speak out on a vitally important cause, one the overwhelming majority of people in the area likely support.

The reason, I think, is rooted in what we expect of names—what we want them to do and how we ultimately relate to them. Let’s be clear: Naming is a tricky business and satisfying the often divergent opinions of a broad group of stakeholders can be an exercise in frustration.

But whether you’re naming a brand or, in this case, arena, we have to keep in mind that people crave names that start to tell a story, pique our interest or simply make us feel. Whether we realize it or not, most of us want names that pull us in with the promise of something more. And Climate Pledge Arena, as well-intentioned as it may be, is simply too on the nose, leaving no room for that elusive something more.

The people behind the name should be applauded for aiming high with respect to what the arena stands for. But I wish they’d had similarly high creative ambitions for bringing that vision to life. And I’d love to see the names that didn’t make the cut, as I’m guessing there were many good, likely better, options in the mix.

Assuming the name needed to at least nod to the capital C cause of climate change, where were the descriptive options that don’t just parrot the (again, admirable) pledge to be good environmental stewards but that inspire us by showing what’s on the other side of those efforts—the celebratory outcome? Where were the evocative names that start to tell a larger story about a corporate sponsor, team and city uniting around a shared vision and all that can yield.

Ultimately, where was that near-magic option that hits our ear just right, captures our imagination and delivers the meaning and memorability befitting the arrival of a Seattle sports franchise. Because it’s out there, somewhere—and that’s the name people want to see, rally behind and repeat as they enter that temple of sport to cheer on their favorite new team.

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