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Michigan State Spartans’ Logo Controversy | Why Their Logo Re-Design is a Smart Move

What about a simple logo re-design has people all up in arms?

When Michigan State Spartans confirmed that they were moving forward with a re-branding effort which included a new logo (featured on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site) the outcry from students, alumni, and fans was deafening.

Before long, online message boards began filling with negative opinions on the new design. In fact, by the time of writing this post, more than 18,100 fans had joined a Facebook page entitled: “JUST DON’T — No new Nike-influenced Spartan helmet.” One alum even admitted he’s part of a grassroots Web effort to flood the e-mail inboxes of MSU officials and coaches to stop the logo change.

Tom Izzo, the Spartans men’s basketball coach, supported the new logo stating:

“For all of you out there that are complaining, shame on you, because … we are trying to do what’s best for Michigan State University, our athletic department and the great people that we associate with and Nike’s done a heck of a job …We are going to be moving into that new century here in the proper way and I’m excited about it.”

As a fan of many teams (none of which are the Spartans) I’d have to agree with Tom. Shame on students, alumni, and fans that would turn their backs on the organization they support so easily. Just take another glance at the two logos and see if these minor changes are worth so much fuss. It’s just a logo after all.

The new logo is on the right...

Is the new logo really that bad?

Before you call the new logo ugly, take a long look at the side-by-side again. They’re so close in shape and styles, that if one is ugly; the other one can’t be that attractive (by simple association) can it? Let’s break down the changes, shall we?

  • The connectors to the feathers (on top) are now solid (the most noticeable change)
  • The face mask has harder, more dramatic edges
  • The eyes are sharper and angled
  • The jaw plate is larger and more dramatic
  • The back of the helmet is beveled
  • The tail of the feathers no longer comes to a point

The overall look isn’t too dramatically different, but it is more modern. The final effect results in a fiercer “expression” (if you will) and a helmet that more accurately represents the shape of a traditional Spartan helmet. The largest difference, and point of contention for most, is the (now) solid connector to the “feathers” on the helmet. While this change completes the more modern look, the old logo did present the feathers in a more visually articulated way.

Why the redesign is a smart move (regardless of what you think)

People can argue about whether or not they like the new logo or whether it needed to be changed until the cows come home (and they will); but they’re completely missing the point. It’s not that the new logo is any better than the old one; that’s simply a matter of opinion. It’s not that the Spartans needed a new logo; they didn’t, the old one worked just fine. People need to remember that college sports is big business. The point of a re-brand like this is plain and simple: profit.

Merchandising
Things like the merchandising of t-shirts, jerseys, hats, jackets, and the hundreds of other products that are being sold will almost certainly increase. Despite the large dissent, there is likely a larger percentage of people who are indifferent or perhaps prefer the new logo and will be first in line to sport the new look of their favorite college team.

Even those who hate the logo now will eventually get over it; but (ironically) not before they go out and pick up as much of the “old” gear that they can get their hands on. If you really like the old logo that much, you might want to do the same because it’ll be tough to find soon.

Sponsorship
Nike is a powerful name to be associated with your team. I know nothing about a deal (if any) Michigan State has with Nike, but I’d be surprised to find out the school didn’t make out (big time) already just so Nike could be a part of the rebrand. Just one more reason this is a win-win situation for the school.

The Bigger Picture of (Re-) Branding

With all the new merchandise, sponsorships, and attention, the ultimate goal of a re-branding campaign like this is to jump start an established identity and splash a little (proverbial) water in the face of their fan base and of the general public with a new fresh look; just like Pepsi did last year. They’ve done enough with the logo that it’s noticeably different, but not so much that it can’t be recognized. But even then, modernizing a logo is only one small part of the branding pie. As the MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis recently said in a statement:

“The Spartan logo, posted on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site, is a single element of a comprehensive brand and identity project that will be unveiled in April by Michigan State athletics…As in all branding, the power of a single symbol cannot be appreciated or measured outside the context of the total presentation.”

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Bubba

Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on

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