Chad Ochocinco is changing his name back to Chad Johnson after he made the original switch in 2008. Ochocinco changed his name after he was fined by the NFL for putting “Ochocinco” on the back of his jersey while his name was still Johnson. In my opinion, the move was made simply as a slap in the face of the NFL and to create a new brand for his career. Changing his name to Ochocinco sold more jerseys and earned more attention from the media.
Athletes will change their name because that is their personal brand. Ervin Santana, pitcher for the Angels, changed his name from Johan Santana because there is already a dominant pitcher in the league with that name. If you’re a quarterback in the NFL, you don’t want to be named Tom Brady and not be THE Tom Brady. Ervin Santana was trying to develop his brand and separate from the expectations his name carried.
The list of athletes with unique name changes continued to grow with Ron Artest changing his name to Metta World Peace this past summer (similar to Lloyd B. Free changing his first name to World). These situations are to get out a message, but personal branding is still involve, although it is rooted deeper in the athlete.
Chad Johnson’s name change was extremely successful. It made an above average NFL receiver relevant every week because we wanted to see what “Ochocinco” was doing. Changing his name back to Johnson marks the end of an era, and potentially a career. I believe the switch back to Johnson is to retire with his family’s name on his back. We will all remember Ochocinco.