The Recent Columbus Crew SC Rebranding: Mmm, Maybe Not

Creative Director Chris Coe outlines five lessons learned from Columbus Crew’s rebrand announcement.

Last week the Columbus Crew Soccer Club unveiled a new name and brand identity. A collective WTF of negative reactions to the identity and the way in which the team chose to undertake this process were splattered across social media propelled by an impassioned and vocal fan base. Even Sports Illustrated weighed in on the logo: “a dull, minimalist pennant logo that’s a confusing downgrade from the almost-universally liked striped and checkered roundel.”

Credit: @keegandalf on Twitter
Credit: @keegandalf on Twitter

“What we’re doing is we’re elevating Columbus and it’s really important we do this” they said. “We felt this was the evolution that needed to take place. ... This process is a mindset shift” they said.

The trouble is they forgot to ask the fans, the supporters, and the #SaveTheCrew movement what they thought of the idea. (#SaveTheCrew pulled off an awe-inspiring campaign that literally saved the team from being unceremoniously moved to Austin, Texas by former team owner, Andrew Precourt in 2018.)

Turns out nobody really thought a rebrand was necessary nor a good idea.

Coming off a 2017 brand overhaul, a 2020 MSL Cup Championship and a brand-new stadium being constructed this year, things seemed to be going pretty well.

Credit: @JDNalton on Twitter
Credit: @JDNalton on Twitter

The collective howl of discontent continued without any sign of abating. After a week of this, team leadership executives decided to tap the brakes and meet with representatives from a diverse group of Crew supporters and hash things out. Early this week the team announced a change of course and reinstated “Crew” to the team name (which was the support groups main objective) and added several visuals elements back into the identity. The Crew support groups say they’re “cautiously optimistic” regarding their relationship with the club going forward.

Lessons Learned

  • Communicate throughout the journey: The Columbus Crew executive leadership got their collective hand slapped for their ill-advised lack of communication with key stakeholder groups. Be sure to communicate early and often throughout the process. If you do this well, you can expect better reactions and results.
  • Inclusivity matters: Make sure you have the right team on the field at the start of the game. Lining up the right players before starting a rebrand process can make sure things go smoothly.  
  • Respect history: Change for change’s sake doesn’t win you a lot of fans. Do your research and have a rationale for the rebrand. You’ll be ahead on the scoreboard.
  • Honor passion: Your brands supporters are your biggest fans. Respect their engagement and they’ll stick with you season after season.
  • Good design can be a game-changer: Invest in a strong design team to ensure the passion and collective spirit of engagement is reflected in the brand identity. You might just sell some merch.    

Looking at a potential rebrand and want to keep your fans from heading to the exit gate? Our crew can help you put together a winning strategy for success.  Let us help.