Gothamite

Logos Killed by Fan Revolts

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Sometimes, just sometimes, fans are able to keep teams from changing their logo.

 

This most recently happened with Watford, in the Premier League.  The club decided that it wanted to change its badge, and opened up a competition to fans.  They sorted through 4,000 submissions, picked 20 semi-finalists and allowed fans to vote on the best.  That finalist went head-to-head against the current badge:

 

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25,000 votes later, the old badge won with a landslide 60% of the vote.

 

Now, you can like the new design better (as I do) while still respecting the club for giving fans a real voice.

 

This is more common in English soccer, because they don't usually produce merchandise right away.  The new designs are unveiled at the start of the process, as opposed to American clubs that don't unveil theirs until all the merchandise has been produced and it's too late to do anything about it.

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Now, clubs have introduced new logos and gone back as soon as feasible.  But I can think of one example where fan backlash caused a team to scrap a planned logo; the San Francisco 49ers' fabled "One-Day Logo".

 

oursf0219_49ers_seifert.jpgoursf0218_49ers_helmets.jpgoursf0218_49ers_carmen.jpg

 

In 2016, the San Francisco Chronicle looked back on the debacle:

 

Quote

The new 49ers helmet logo was the third order of business at the press conference on Feb. 13, 1991, and the details didn’t appear until the ninth paragraph of San Francisco Chronicle writer Ira Miller’s next-day story.

 

But it would become a generational blunder, and arguably the biggest logo-related disaster in Bay Area sports history. After front page stories mocked the new design, and fans revolted, team owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. took just six days to reverse his decision and keep the old logo – the same one that remains in 2016.

 

The press conference took place 25 years ago this week. I saw a tweet from ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell marking the anniversary, and checked the Chronicle archives. Deanne Fitzmaurice took two dozen color photos, many seen here for the first time. We also wrote a half dozen articles – two of which made the front page, on busy news days that included the Gulf War coming to an end.

 

As I read each one, the tale of this gaffe kept getting more absorbing. Here is the story:

 

The logo debut was greatly overshadowed by Carmen Policy’s promotion to president of the team, and the discussion of contract talks surrounding Ronnie Lott. At the press conference, DeBartolo Jr. suggested that Lott, 31, might be getting too old. (Think Lott used that as motivation when he joined the Raiders later that year?)

But when a photo of the helmet showed up in the Chronicle, and on every local TV station, the fans made it a story. The Chronicle received dozens of letters, and the 49ers received hundreds of phone calls upset about the change. Modern sports fans are used to their football teams creating their own reality in the face of a crisis. But the 49ers admitted to all of this in real time.

 

“The phones keep ringing,” team PR assistant Al Barba told The Chronicle. “People are saying the old logo was classier, that it meant San Francisco. I guess they basically don’t like it.”

 

The Chronicle’s Dawn Garcia wrote a front-page Chronicle story two days after the press conference, interviewing irate fans. My favorite quote comes from Bay Area hero Rik Gloff. If there was a better quote in the Chronicle in the 1990s, I haven’t seen it yet:

 

FullSizeRender-2.jpg

 

These 49ers were one of the greatest dynasties in sports history. But at this press conference, future Hall of Fame owner DeBartolo Jr. could get nothing right.

 

The design, one of 40 presented to the team by the NFL, was the 1990s at its worst. It looked like a font you’d see on a New Kids on the Block album, or a box of sugary breakfast cereal. Hurting the team’s case even more was the decision to present the new helmet side-by-side next to the old one at the press conference. “Here’s our new sucky thing next to the old one that’s perfectly fine.”

 

Excluding 49ers and NFL executives, we can find only two people who approved of the design. Among those untold hundreds of outraged callers, the 49ers claimed one man called and said he liked the new helmet.

 

The other person was Herb Caen.

 

“No, I’m not getting into the flap over the new 49ers helmet logo,” Caen wrote, later that week. “After 20 yrs or so, it was time for a change. What I’ll miss more than ‘SF’ is the striped stockings.”

 

FullSizeRender-2-1.jpg

 

Alas, the new design became the Gary Cherone of logos. The day after Caen wrote his words, DeBartolo Jr. changed his mind, calling the helmet “a mistake on the part of the organization.”

 

“The fans are the important people to me,” he told KPIX’s Wayne Walker.

 

The Chronicle responded with another front page story by my current Chronicle colleague Sam Whiting, that you see above. The last words in that story, from a fan, were ominous.

 

“That’s great, the new logo stunk,” fan Mark Emmons said in 1991, after news spread that the new logo was gone. “I was kind of worried that if DeBartolo could change the helmet logo that fast, the next thing (it) was going to be the San Jose 49ers.

 

“You shouldn’t mess with tradition.”

 

Awesome.  But this is the exception, not the rule.

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Also, the 49ers tweaked their "classic" logo in 1996, which is the one they still use to this day.

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Then there's Leeds United in England again.  The Telegraph didn't mince words:
 

Quote

 

Leeds United reveal 'absolutely awful' new club badge 

Screen-Shot-2018-01-24-at-12-06-06_trans

 

Leeds United have promised a ­rethink over the club’s new badge after fans reacted with dismay to the design revealed to mark their centenary in 2019. The crest, which the club say celebrates “fans at the heart of our identity”, depicts a supporter doing the so-called Leeds salute.

 

Thousands of fans signed a petition calling for it to be scrapped and the Leeds managing director, ­Angus Kinnear, told BBC Radio Leeds that the club will now consult with more supporters before a new badge is adopted.

 

“As we look at the feedback today I think it’s clear that the consultation process that we embarked on, that we were very confident had delivered a result, wasn’t extensive enough,” Kinnear said. “We need to reopen that consultation process very clearly.”

 

By Wednesday night the number of signatures on the petition had risen to well over 50,000. Fans and players often put their right fist over their heart as a sign of support for Leeds. 

 

Before the storm the club proudly revealed the new badge on Wednesday afternoon following six months of research in which 10,000 people were consulted. 

 

A statement on the club's website read: "After a rigorous process that spanned six months, we consulted more than 10,000 people connected to Leeds United, through digital surveys, one-on-one and group interviews and meetings with legends, current players, club staff, the owner, partners and representatives from the Leeds and Yorkshire communities.

 

 "The abbreviation rather than spelling out Leeds United in full contributes to the crest being unrecognisable. We wanted to say who we are with pride: We are Leeds United.

 

"We are now delighted and proud to reveal a new crest that represents the passion and the unique identity that runs deep through the Club.

 

 

"The new crest depicts the ‘Leeds Salute’, which over the decades has been an expression of the passion that connects Leeds United’s fans and players on and off the pitch and all over the world."

 

The new design has so far been poorly received by Leeds fans on social media, with one United blogger calling it "absolutely tragic"

 

 

An online petition set up to "stop LUFC from implementing the 'Leeds Salute' crest", has already gained 10,000 signatures little over an hour after the club unveiled the new design. 

 

England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, a lifelong Leeds supporter, called the redesign "shocking".

 

"It looks absolutely shocking! what’s everyone else think? Be interested to know who the 10,000 plus people were..." he wrote on Twitter.

 

He added: "Some amazing memories in the old #lufc badge over many decades of football. Not sure how past players will be reacting to the new one..."

 

A number of people online suggested the design bares an uncanny resemblance to the front cover of the 2002 football game, Pro Evolution Soccer 2.

 

 

A statement from Leeds managing director Angus Kinnear read: “In the past year we have worked very hard as a club to re-engage fans and the wider community across Leeds.

 

"We have seen season ticket sales soar and gates have regularly exceeded 32,000 at Elland Road – we are very grateful for the loyal and unwavering support we have received.  

 

 

“Once we heard that there was a desire for change to help herald a new era for club, it became of primary importance that the new crest clearly reflected who we are.

 

"Everybody knows how proud and passionate the Leeds United fans are, but since I arrived at the club, I have been in awe at the unique connection between the fans and the team.  

 

“Updating the crest is not a decision we have taken lightly, but we are proud to have a new crest that is authentic to Leeds United and honours the quality and loyalty of our fans.

 

|It is a symbol of ‘strength in unity’ and a proud expression of the club’s identity and history.”

 

And, as you guessed it, their "badge for the next 100 years" didn't even last a hundred hours.  They quickly backtracked and introduced a new centenary badge that's closer to the original.

 

0_Leeds-home-shirt-3JPG.jpg

 

We'll see what they end up using after the celebration is over; I wouldn't be surprised to see them adopt the shield by itself, which is very close to their previous badge.

 

depositphotos_87387384-stock-photo-leeds

 

It’s essentially the same, just without the letters.  That’s a natural update, I would like it. 

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48 minutes ago, NicDB said:

Also, the 49ers tweaked their "classic" logo in 1996, which is the one they still use to this day.

 

True enough - five years later they overhauled the entire uniforms, including a logo update.  They changed back the uniforms but kept the new logo.

 

So 49er fans thought this was a bridge too far:

 

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But they were okay with going from this:

 

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to this:

 

460px-San_Francisco_49ers_logo.svg.png

 

 

Evolution okay, revolution no. 

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Here's another example from England, in 2005 lower-level side Coventry City decided to change its badge from this:

 

278px-Coventry_City_FC_logo.svg.png

 

to this:

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Now, I think this is a clear upgrade, but the fans didn't like it.  So this badge never saw the light of day.

 

 

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And, because this isn’t limited to English soccer, Barcelona had the same problem.  Their badge update was minor, but still provoked a backlash:

spacer.png

 

Again, I think this was a huge upgrade.  The letters weren’t needed, the outlines pointless clutter.   And fit neatly in to their badge evolution:

spacer.png

But alas, was not to be. 

 

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First one that comes to mind was the New Hampshire Primaries of the AA Eastern League:

spacer.png

 

I LOVE this logo...it would've stood out for years to come.  Trouble is, the hometown fans hated it, so a contest was held to change it.

 

Although they bring this out ever so often (where it's beloved), it would've been FAR more memorable than whatever the heck a "Fisher Cat" is.

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I think the Islanders Gorton's Fisherman logo is the closest thing you're going to see to this in the current era of North American major-league sports, and even that took a few seasons to undo itself since (to your point) so much merch and marketing things are already in production by the time anything is unveiled.

 

Even when the fans got the logo back, it still took time to get the jersey back.

 

1996-97-New-York-Islanders-Vukota-Fishers-l300.jpg

 

Not learning form their mistakes, the team continues to crap on its history and fans by rolling out crappy sweaters every few years, whether it be the first Edge set, the black basketball-jersey set, the orange alts, etc.

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36 minutes ago, MBurmy said:

First one that comes to mind was the New Hampshire Primaries of the AA Eastern League:

spacer.png

 

I LOVE this logo...it would've stood out for years to come.  Trouble is, the hometown fans hated it, so a contest was held to change it.

 

Although they bring this out ever so often (where it's beloved), it would've been FAR more memorable than whatever the heck a "Fisher Cat" is.

I don't blame Granite Staters for hating this logo, though. Being the first-in-the-nation primary state, we're bombarded with political ads seemingly nonstop. It seems like we've been seeing ads here for Steyer since seemingly time immemorial, let alone the other candidates. So, I empathize with sports fans that would want to visit Manchester for a game and not see a reminder of politics.

 

That said, the logo is objectively awesome. So was the original Fisher Cats logo:

Image result for NH Fisher Cats original logo"

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Everton made an unpopular badge change in 2013. The fans lost their minds before the season but it was too late to change because materials were already made (and kits manufactured).  The badge lasted one season then they remade it again 

 

 

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Everton is a good one. 
 

Here’s the original and the club’s intended replacement:
 

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and the eventual final logo:

 

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There’s one going on now in the USL.  Louisville City unveiled the third logo in their history:

 

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Fans freaked, and they pulled it after three days. 
 


Ironic, considering that their first badge was also pulled after a fan outcry (that time after only one day) and was never actually used. 

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The proposed Everton badge is way, way better than the one they ended up going with.

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5 hours ago, Gothamite said:

This is more common in English soccer, because they don't usually produce merchandise right away.  The new designs are unveiled at the start of the process, as opposed to American clubs that don't unveil theirs until all the merchandise has been produced and it's too late to do anything about it.

 

Another reason why it's more common there is that those teams represent independent clubs, and aren't franchise clubs of a specific league like North American pro teams are.  They're not beholden to league rules for rebrands like teams are here, where they are often required to keep a redesigned logo or uniform for a certain number of seasons before the league will allow them to rebrand again. 

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I think that’s actually secondary; only the NFL has that rule. 
 

And the reason that rule exists in the NFL is not because they’re franchises, but because merchandising is much more important to American clubs than English clubs.  Could you imagine a major-league US team rebranding and then not having merchandise available for sale for several months?  It would be unheard of.
 

But as for non-NFL clubs, we saw the Portland Timbers change their logo after immediate fan backlash.  And MLS clubs are even less “independent” than any other American entities.

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I mean, the Portland unveiling was amazing.

 

 

The new logo is met by a chorus of boos as it is revealed, and then a chant of “You :censored:ed Up!  You :censored:ed Up!”  Portland supporters were having none of it, and ownership heard them loud and clear. 
 

Here’s that logo, as unveiled:

 

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and the hastily-tweaked version:


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Still not great, but apparently just better enough to placate their fans.

 

 

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10 hours ago, Gothamite said:

I think that’s actually secondary; only the NFL has that rule. 
 

And the reason that rule exists in the NFL is not because they’re franchises, but because merchandising is much more important to American clubs than English clubs.  Could you imagine a major-league US team rebranding and then not having merchandise available for sale for several months?  It would be unheard of.
 

But as for non-NFL clubs, we saw the Portland Timbers change their logo after immediate fan backlash.  And MLS clubs are even less “independent” than any other American entities.

Sabres fans had to endure the slug for four seasons, despite the bashlack. (1 pre edge and the min 3 post edge)

 

Also fun fan revolts surrounding the slug: The team rushed a classic third into the rotation due to backlash and the team went only one year(2007-2008) without a third jersey with the classic/classic updated logo. In that 07 08 year though? They were in the winter classic wearing their white throwbacks. 

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For an example from minor-league baseball, a fan revolt between the 2014 and 2015 seasons caused the Nashville Sounds to alter the planned changes to their color scheme, even though most of the dissenting fans seemed to be fine with the logos and wordmarks being proposed for the team's 2015 season.  To signify both their move from their original home, Herschel Greer Stadium, to the then-new First Tennessee (now First Horizon) Park and their departure from the Milwaukee Brewers' farm system to become the Oakland Athletics' Class AAA affiliate, the Sounds unveiled a visual identity with neon orange and a light shade of tan as the color scheme.  However, widespread backlash among the team's fans provoked the Sounds to replace the neon orange with red and have the light tan give way to silver before the start of the 2015 season.

 

As I have understood it, part of the opposition stemmed from a desire that the Sounds keep using red, which was part of both the Sounds' 1998-2014 color scheme and the set of colors that the team utilized from 1978 (when the original Sounds franchise in the Class AA Southern League debuted) through 1997 (the final season of the Class AAA American Association, the original league of the current version of the Sounds).  Another common motive for wanting a different mix of colors at that time was that some Sounds fans were unwilling to wear orange.  While SportsLogos.Net's 2015 article on the history of the Nashville Sounds identity did not elaborate as to why those fans objected to orange as a color for the Sounds, my guess is that it is because sports fans across Tennessee and in much of the American South in general have tended to associate the color orange quite strongly with the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  Therefore, I cannot help but suspect that most (if not all) of those anti-orange fans of the Sounds were and are fans of other universities' athletic programs.

 

When it comes to the Sounds and red, it should not have been so surprising, then, that when the team's major-league parent club changed from the Athletics to the Texas Rangers between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the Sounds switched to a visual identity with red being joined by white and a dark shade of royal blue as the colors.

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