NLL’s Philadelphia Wings start using Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ ‘ForTheW’ hashtag

Photo courtesy: Philadelphia Wings

It would appear as though a member of the National Lacrosse League has taken inspiration from one of the top teams in the Canadian Football League.

The Philadelphia Wings introduced a new marketing campaign on Monday morning featuring a slogan that is already familiar to fans of the CFL. ‘ForTheW’ has been the official hashtag of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for a number of years, but that hasn’t stopped the Wings from pasting it all over their website and social media accounts.

The Blue Bombers soon took notice of Philadelphia’s announcement and appear to have found humour in it judging by the following response.

Winnipeg first introduced its ‘ForTheW’ campaign in March 2017, establishing it in the following tweet. It appears to have originally been intended as a one-off for the 2017 season but has remained in use ever since. Anyone that’s been to a game at IG Field knows that players and fans often shape their hands into a ‘W’ as a way of showing support for their team.

A search on Twitter reveals that the Wings aren’t the first athletics organization to start using the hashtag since the Blue Bombers formally adopted it in 2017.

Wiley College, a small private school located in Marshall, Texas, started using the hashtag on its athletics Twitter account in June 2020. They have used the hashtag ever since along with a number of others including ‘FearTheClaws,’ ‘ClawsOut,’ and ‘OnTheHunt.’

That isn’t to say the ‘ForTheW’ hashtag wasn’t in use before Winnipeg established their marketing campaign in 2017. The University of Wisconsin’s wrestling team started using the hashtag in September 2015 and did so frequently before abandoning it in March 2018.

The West Forsyth High School swim and dive team in Cumming, Ga. also used the hashtag from November 2016 to October 2017.

The purpose of a hashtag is to facilitate an easy way for users on social media to locate and engage with content regarding their favourite topics. Having a hashtag that overlaps with another major brand doesn’t make sense, which could be why Wisconsin and West Forsyth abandoned ‘ForTheW.’

This is why it’s odd that the Philadelphia Wings have started using a hashtag that’s already popular. They are a different team in a different country playing a different sport — why not come up with something unique that would allow fans to interact with an exclusive hashtag?

Winnipeg has 175.6 thousand followers on Twitter and Philadelphia has 11.9 thousand, which means the Blue Bombers will dominate most of the conversation surrounding the hashtag. All of the replies to the Wings’ announcement on Monday morning came from fans in Winnipeg criticizing the NLL team’s use of the slogan.

It’s also possible that Philadelphia wasn’t aware that another team was using the hashtag, which wouldn’t be an unprecedented oversight. The CFL launched their new ‘Let ‘Em Know’ marketing campaign in May without realizing that the Cleveland Cavaliers still had branding attached to the hashtag.

For anyone wondering if the Blue Bombers stole the ‘ForTheW’ hashtag from the wrestling and aquatics teams listed above, the answer is no. Winnipeg used it in a handful of tweets in 2015, though it didn’t stick around for long. They appear to be the first team — amateur or professional — to use the hashtag in an official capacity.

If you’re curious about the first-ever usage of the hashtag, it belongs to Mike Honcho, who tweeted about streaming the NCAA basketball tournament at work in March 2010. If you’re reading this, Mike, congratulations — and we hope that watching basketball at work didn’t get you fired.