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Mercedes, the NBA, and the Advent of the Branding of Branding

Thanks to the decade-long reshuffling of three NBA franchises in four cities, the Charlotte Bobcats are set to take the name Hornets next season. Charlotte was home to the original Hornets from 1988 to 2002, before that franchise moved to New Orleans. Two years after the Hornets left, the NBA replaced them with an expansion club dubbed, in a superb display of dullness, the Bobcats. This season the Hornets became the Pelicans, allowing Charlotte to reclaim their old name.

The move is an obvious one for the franchise: It reminds fans of the glory days of teal jerseyspacked houses, and Grandmama—and distracts from subsequent draft blundersempty seats, and record-setting futility. And now Mercedes-Benz wants a piece of any good vibes that come with bringing back the Hornets. As Sports Business Journal reported today, the automaker and some of its Charlotte-area dealers are sponsoring the renaming. Bobcats executives are calling it “the first sponsorship of a rebranding campaign in the NBA.” The branding of branding is now officially a thing. On the list of great American firsts, this probably falls just behind flight, the moon landing, and the telephone.