Kings tattoo stunt is a sign of desperation, not loyalty

Juan Agundez was among the Sacramento Kings fans to get a tattoo of the new team logo.
Juan Agundez was among the Sacramento Kings fans to get a tattoo of the new team logo.

Talk about the ultimate in bad corporate branding campaigns.

When I learned that the Sacramento Kings had opened their wallet to pay for free tattoos of the team’s new logo for the first fans willing to go under the needle, I couldn’t believe it. Had Kings’ management become so desperate for some PR that it would stoop this low?

Apparently so.

Inviting (mostly) young people to mark their skin with a permanent, inked replica of the team’s artsy crown or lion speaks volumes about bad judgment at the top. It’s not that I dislike the new logos. And I certainly have nothing against the devoted fans who lined up to take advantage of the deal.

What’s sad is that the Kings seem to feel this stunt is worthy of an organization at the center of Sacramento civic life. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Here they are, ready to christen a lovely new arena, hire a new coach and begin a new era (again) after years of appalling dysfunction. Sacramento’s fans stuck with them through the ugly times. Golden 1 Credit Union gave them millions – and its good name – for the new arena. The city invested a boatload of cash.

And now, to say thank you and promote their new and improved brand, the Kings invite fans to permanently stamp the team logo on their skin?

As marketing experts know, the best advertising is not only memorable but also expresses meaningful values beyond the product itself. It should be inspirational and delivered in ways that enhance the brand’s credibility.

Nike’s ad campaigns, including “Just Do It” and “Find Your Greatness,” are compelling examples. Their uplifting, inclusive messages suggest that as long as we try and do our own personal best, we’re winners.

Hawking your brand through free tattoos isn’t inspiring, it’s pathetic. In fact, to many moms and dads who take their kids to Kings games, it may even be offensive. What’s the team’s message here? That a true fan who is “Sacramento Proud” should undergo a painful, occasionally risky procedure?

I’m sure the Kings’ PR folks were doing high fives on Thursday after seeing that their stunt captured widespread attention in national sports media.! SB Nation! ESPN!

But sorry, that old adage that “any publicity is good publicity as long as you spell my name right” has been proved wrong many times.

Look closely at many of the media reports and you’ll find the same old sad and cynical references to Sacramento’s reputation as a haplessly lost basketball town. Patrick Schmidt, of the Sports Illustrated website FanSided, put it this way: “I applaud the effort to reach out to the community and get fans fired up over the new logo, but paying for people to get the logo tattooed comes off as more than a little desperate.

“Then again, the Kings are desperate …”

Ya think?

A friend who follows the Warriors had this thought in response to the gimmick: Why not sink that tattoo money into creating a good basketball experience for fans?

Brilliant idea. Oh, and make sure to save a few bucks for folks who want to laser off the logo when it changes in 10 years.

Jenifer Warren, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, is a writer and communications consultant in Sacramento. She can be contacted at