William Shakespeare’s Juliet may disagree (“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”), but names do matter.
Over the years, San Francisco has been called the “City by the Bay,” “The City,” “Golden Gate City,” “Frisco,” and “San Fran.” Its residents generally like or accept the first three nicknames, but many do not like or accept “Frisco” and “San Fran.”
Adding fuel to their ire: in some circles, “San Fran” is purposefully used to indicate the speaker is not fond of San Francisco’s culture or political climate, or both.
Not being one to shy away from controversy, Bospar took up the cause, running an annual survey commemorating the naming of San Francisco on January 30, 1847, by Mayor Washington Allon Bartlett.
Bospar’s fifth annual San Francisco Naming Day survey was conducted in January.
For Bospar Principal Curtis Sparrer, who calls San Francisco home, the moniker “San Fran” is akin to fingernails scraping across a chalkboard. To raise awareness that the nickname was extremely unpopular among San Francisco residents, Bospar created the annual San Francisco Naming Day survey.
We would have fun raising awareness of the “San Fran” issue, learn what people think about it, publicize the results, and, hopefully, effect change. It also was a way for Bospar to apply the strategies and tactics we use for our clients to a cause we wanted to publicize. In the 2022 implementation, the poll also explored consumer attitudes about the expression of political opinions by airlines, while also providing some key insights into the public’s acceptance of bullying.
In 2022, as in past years, Bospar called on research partner Propeller Insights to conduct the survey. Propeller Insights surveyed nearly 1,000 people January 2-5, 2022.We then sprung into action, crafting and pitching the press release to media who may be interested in covering the news, following up with interested online and broadcast media outlets and monitoring results.
Results – Research
The 2022 research revealed more than half (56.5%) of Americans use the term “San Fran” to describe San Francisco, a slight decline from 2021, when 59.5% admitted to using it. This year’s survey found that 28.4% of respondents understood that San Franciscans hate the “San Fran” moniker, with 71.6% reporting being unaware of this Bay Area sensitivity. After being educated that San Franciscans do in fact hate “San Fran,” three-quarters (73.6%) reported they will stop using it.
Commercial air carriers also seem to be guilty of using the term “San Fran” regularly. According to the survey results, major airlines that use “San Fran” the most include American Airlines (11%), Southwest (6.4%), United (5.6%), and Delta (4.9%).
When asked if “calling someone by a name they don’t like is a form of bullying,” nearly three-quarters of respondents (72.3%) said “yes.” What’s more, some of those polled appear to have an appetite for bullying – at least for the verbal kind when it comes to city nicknames – as 26.4% said they would continue using the expression “San Fran” regardless. A bracing 6.5% of those surveyed also reported that they “like being a bully,” showing an appetite for conflict among some American citizens.
Results – Media
In 2022, Bay Area stations KRON, KCBS and KNTV covered the survey results along with national iHeartRadio. Bospar also presented a summary and highlights of the San Francisco Naming Day surveys in a Hollywood-produced case study of its work here.
Coverage of past surveys included PRWeek’s article in 2019 about Bospar’s open letter to Neil Patrick Harris, asking him not to say “San Fran,” and a series of Bay Area television interviews with Sparrer.
“It really surprises me that a majority of people continue to say ‘San Fran,’ even though we locals loathe that expression,” says Sparrer. “We remain hopeful that when educated as to how citizens of San Francisco feel about the term, most people will call our fair city by its proper and respectful name. Although there is only a slight decline in the use of ‘San Fran,’ we aren’t giving up. Change is often slow-going, but these survey results illuminate the potential and power of communications, as well as the potential to change hearts and minds as PR practitioners, even when it’s something as simple as pointing out the use of our city’s proper name.”
Here’s our video describing our mission: https://vimeo.com/672139692