FOR THE H OF IT

Ken Hoffman uncovers the origin of the Astros 2020 slogan

Photo by Getty Images

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

It happens every spring, the Houston Astros come up with a slogan intended to rally the fans and get the town excited about baseball again. Some examples from recent years: "We Are Your Astros" (2011), "Root. Root. Root. (2012), "Earn History" (2017), "Never Settle" (2018), and "Take It Back" (2019).

For 2020, this year of redemption, the Astros want everybody to know they're doing it "For the H." The Astros want "For the H" to be as ubiquitous as "Keep America Great" or "Not me. Us" (maybe) or "Mike Gets It Done" (pending) and stick around just as long. That would be World Series time in November.

The Astros didn't go with the first light bulb that popped over a mid-level manager's head. Here's all the staff meetings, focus groups, and running up the flagpole that go into the team slogan — from first brainstorm to the sign outside Minute Maid Park — courtesy of Anita Sehgal, Astros senior vice president of marketing and communications.

CultureMap: How long ago did you start thinking up the campaign slogan for 2020?

Anita Sehgal: We started in November — shortly after the World Series. We have used 'For the H' on and off within other campaigns and this year felt right to elevate it and develop a campaign around it.

CM: How important to the Astros is a good slogan that connects with fans and the community?

AS: Incredibly important. Our campaign every year is intended to provide a rallying cry for our fans, players and the community. We want our fans to have a true emotional connection with our team. It is also important that we look at a fully integrated campaign – not just a slogan. Our marketing team wants to ensure our theme is more than just words.

CM: What is the process? How many steps up the corporate ladder before owner Jim Crane gives a thumbs up?

AS: The marketing team leads the process for campaign development. We anchor our process in fan insight. We take our inspiration from how our fans, players, and influencers speak about why they love the Astros and what they look forward to. The team develops mood boards, tagline options and a few design options for consideration.

The team also spends a lot of time developing creative and content ideas on how the campaign will come to life and sustain itself for a full season. It is a collaborative process among many departments within marketing. We generally go through a few iterations until ultimately I sign off and share with our entire executive team, including Jim. Once our executive team has had input, we finalize the campaign and prep it for launch.

CM: How long between first thought to the final okay?

AS: Our campaign process generally takes about two months.

CM: Was the slogan devised in-house or did the Astros go to Madison Avenue for a slogan specialist?

AS: We have an unbelievably talented marketing department in-house that takes this task on every year.

CM: It's unusual that our XFL team, the Roughnecks, also is using "For the H" as its slogan. Are the Astros okay with that? Who came first? Was it done in collaboration?

Continue on CultureMap to find out if the Roughnecks and Astros collaborated on the slogan.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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