Ok, let’s just take it for granted that I find the Redskins name odious. I think that Bob Costas put it best during last Sunday’s game between Dallas and our home team. So I am not going to talk about that here.
Now what really really has my blood boiling is the logo design contest that is being run by the “San Francisco design firm” 99designs. First of all, 99designs is not a design firm—they are an aggregator that run logo contests where freelance designers can enter designs with the hope that one of their designs will be chosen and they will be paid the princely sum of $200–$2,000. In fact on their homepage, they crow about the fact that for just $714 they received 1,887 designs from 347 designers for the Redskins logo. So much is wrong with this statement that I do not know where to begin. I should be clear from the start that the Redskins organization did not start or sanction this contest. No, designers are doing a great job of shooting themselves in the foot.
1. Let’s start with the fact that Dan Snyder runs one of the most profitable football franchises in the nation. According to the Forbes list of NFL team valuations, it is valued at $1.7 billion as of August 2013. One hopes that should he decide to change the name and therefore the logo, he will not stoop to putting this through a contest. And let’s also remember that he will rake in millions of dollars from merchandising the mark. Should designers give him a logo at a cut rate? You decide.
2. In the logo contest sponsored by 99designs, the winning names were one of the following: Washington Warriors, the Washington Renegades and the Washington Griffins.
• The Washington Warriors designed by Mixaurus is a very fitting name for the football team in the U.S. Capital. Really? And how do you think that name will play overseas? Think the State Department or the Defense Department will like that one? And does anyone else find that this reminds them of the Pentagon’s 911 memorial logo?
• The Washington Renegades. Do you suppose that is referring to the Tea Party elements in the recent budget negotiations?
• The Griffins?! Really?! Well, I guess it goes along with the Wizard theme
3. The creative brief given to the hordes of designers that entered is a great example of why you should never ever go to an organization that cares less about delivering up a quality brand, and more about generating buzz. “The Washington Redskins are a professional American football team based in Washington, D.C. They’ve won 5 NFL Championships, 13 NFL divisional titles, and 6 NFL Conference Championships – so they’re kind of a big deal. ….Our goal with this contest is to rebrand the franchise based on three different name suggestions with a logo that’s a little more PC. And to have fun with it!” Not sure about 99, but normally there is a stringent creative brief, and having “fun with it” is fine as long it is on the mark!
4. 99design’s image suggestions direct the designers to try to use an American infantry soldier with a GI combat helmet, a curly R for the Renegades (go figure that one out!) and a part eagle, part lion for the Griffins…and looking at the marks submitted, I guess the designers have no idea of the rivalry with the Philadelphia Eagles. More important, there is little consideration on what might sell, what might inspire fans, and what might offend various constituencies. Having a white man in a helmet….I don’t think so.
5. If you think that a brand is created only by a logo, well, you know even less about logos than these designers know about football. The Forbes list has valued the Redskins brand at $145 M. And you can bet that lots of those zeroes come from merchandise. I simply can not see fans shelling out lots of bucks for a curlicued R.
6. So many of the comments on the 99design site ask if it is possible to play around with the colors. Lindajo asks, “So if they aren’t the ‘Redskins’ anymore, can the colors be purple and gold or orange and blue or whatever?” Obviously Lindajo has never rooted for a college or NFL team, but colors are kind of sacred. Can you imagine Ohio State changing their logo and colors to brown and orange? How about if we make the Eagles pink and purple to mix things up?! Not!
When design organizations, freelancers, or crowd sourcing logo sites do not follow a coherent process, they end up with third-rate work, no strategy, and a poor outcome. Brands are carefully orchestrated, and sports brands have an often irrationally fervent fan base…which is why we are in such a pickle over the name Redskins. If this was not a sports team, if it was the name of a clothing brand, I dare say the name change would have been made a long time ago.