Not long after local entrepreneur Steve Malik took ownership of the Carolina RailHawks in October, he also purchased the trademark “Carolina Flight,” raising some eyebrows.
Some thought the move hinted at a rebrand of the RailHawks, entering its 10th season as a franchise.
Malik said he hasn’t completely ruled out a rebrand of the RailHawks in the future, but for now, he said he’s being proactive in securing trademarks because he might want to bring another sports team to the Triangle one day.
“(We’re) contemplating a women’s (soccer) team, we’re also going to look at several other sports, maybe rugby or lacrosse, there’s a number of professional leagues starting up that might be of interest,” Malik said. “There’s a number of possibilities. I also bought a lot of other domain names.”
The comments about possibly revamping the RailHawks name come shortly after Malik told The News & Observer he is open to the RailHawks moving to downtown Raleigh, if a sports center is built. A 10-year vision plan for downtown Raleigh calls for an entertainment and sports complex, though the concept is very preliminary and the city doesn’t own the land where it could be located.
Malik has previous experience experimenting with brands after he bought back MedFusion in 2013, a medical software company he sold for $91 million in 2010.
“I reacquired this business, went through a branding exercise here, and at the end of the day ... decided to go back to MedFusion,” he said. “We don’t want to rush into anything. Getting fan and sponsor input is important and we want to get it right.”
He’s left the door open to several brands, but Malik said his favorite is “Flight.”
“It represents the state, it’s unique, (the) only place in the world that can claim the history we have with that,” said Malik, referring to the Wright Brothers’ first flight in Kitty Hawk.
“It’s an action word,” Malik said. “With that element to it, you think to a number of sports, and those balls don’t stay on the ground. It’s a great name for a professional team.”
It’s not just Malik’s desire to see more sports teams in the Triangle that has ramped up expansion team talks, but also the financial advantages of having more than one team compete at WakeMed Soccer Park.
“I’ve talked to other owners in (the North American Soccer League), and those owners that have stadiums that have additional sports franchises have a lot easier time selling sponsorships,” Malik said. “We have dates, and that provides a great opportunity for sponsors to target internationals – particularly the Latino market, suburban soccer moms and millennials. If we have 15 to 20 more dates with significant enough attendance, that gives a much broader appeal to sponsors.”
While the RailHawks name isn’t changing, Malik said he is contemplating tweaks to the uniform, which has largely remained the same outside of the usual sponsorship changes.
“I had a conversation with team president Curt Johnson about interesting things we can do with designers and uniforms and all that, but that’s a 12-month process with Adidas,” Malik said. “It’s not that you come up with a cool new looking feel and you have that implemented in two weeks. It can’t be done overnight.”
A RailHawks name change, if it happens, depends on whether Malik determines what new pro team he would like to start up and if he assigns a team the “Flight” name. It wouldn’t occur for the 2016 season.
“We don’t have a timeline,” Malik said. “(The RailHawks) is a good brand. I’m not even saying we will change it. I’m saying we will evaluate after we look at other sports teams we’re going to add and the corporate structure that we’ll have. There’s a lot of options that need to be worked through.”