Fan naming competitions used to go off without a hitch — see professional sports teams such as the Toronto Raptors and Seattle Seahawks. Then, the Internet happened.
As several marketing teams have learned all too well, there’s nothing the online community likes more than transforming a seemingly harmless post into an outrageous viral phenomenon. So in light of Britain’s current boat naming fiasco, here are a few other times the Internet just couldn’t resist turning a naming poll into a chance to create some uproar.
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A recent proposal by the U.K.’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to let the Internet name a $287 million polar research ship has quickly spiraled out of control due to one man’s suggestion of the name “Boaty McBoatface.” The tongue-in-cheek recommendation has quickly taken the lead in the poll, which will close on April 16.
While NERC hasn’t committed to accepting the results of the contest, the agency released a statement saying they’re excited by participants’ enthusiasm. “We are pleased that people are embracing the idea in a spirit of fun,” said Alison Robinson, director of corporate affairs. “We have suggested some criteria for the name on our website and the final decision will be announced in due course. We are very much enjoying hearing everyone’s ideas.”
Mister Splashy Pants
When Green Peace held a contest in 2007 to name a whale from a pod of humpbacks they had tagged in the South Pacific, things didn’t turn out quite how they expected. While the group received many legitimate suggestions such as Aurora, Libertad and Aiko, 78 percent of votes cast were for the name Mister Splashy Pants.
To their credit, the nonprofit honored the poll’s results and even managed to use the popularity of the competition to promote their mission. “To everyone who voted for Mister Splashy Pants, now that you’ve named him, it’s time to save him,” they wrote. “He might have a great name but he and his friends are still in danger. The only way to be 100 percent sure that ‘Splashy’ doesn’t get harpooned is to stop killing all whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.”
Dub the Dew
Mountain Dew’s 2012 ‘Dub the Dew’ promotion was intended as a crowdsourcing opportunity for fans to name a new green apple-flavored version of the soft drink, but quickly turned into a competition among Internet users to see who could submit the most offensive suggestions. When the short-lived poll was shut down, leading entries included “Hitler did nothing wrong,” “Diabeetus,” and “Gushing Granny.”
Vulcan and Romulus
Star Trek fans rallied behind William Shatner, a.k.a. Captain Kirk, in 2012 when the then 82-year-old actor petitioned the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute to name Pluto’s two newly discovered moons Vulcan and Romulus, a pair of planets from the Trekkie universe. An asteroid satellite already named Romulus took that option out of the running, leaving Vulcan to rocket to the top of the poll on its own. The names Styx and Kerberos were eventually chosen instead.
Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and Arts
When Austin, Texas, asked residents to help rename its Solid Waste Services Department, the majority polled were in favor of a submission inspired by the frontman of ’90s rap-rock band Limp Bizkit. Nearly 30,000 people voted for 24-year-old Kyle Hentges’ motion to rebrand the garbage dump the “Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and Arts,” a name which even Durst himself publicly supported. “I want to thank all of you who are helping me in Austin. I hope we win,” he tweeted.
City officials weren’t quite as enamored with the moniker, rejecting the suggestion in favor of “Austin Resource Recovery.”