When Tropicana redesigned their packaging, customers protested. And when IKEA changed their font from Futura to Verdana, both fans and designers lamented the switch. These are just two recent examples of people making themselves heard with the help of the internet, with mixed results.
So imagine the reaction when news leaked yesterday that Michigan State University (MSU) plans to launch a redesign of the Spartan brand this April.
Current and redesigned helmet logos
News of the redesign, which was a two-year collaborative effort between MSU Athletics and Nike, spread quickly thanks to fan sites and social media. It wasn’t long before angry Spartans joined the Facebook group “JUST DON’T – No new Nike-influenced Spartan helmet”.
As fans took to the internet to give their opinions, news outlets tried to get more details about the redesigned logo. MLive.com and Detroit Free Press quoted MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis and Director of Athletic Communications John Lewandowski, respectively, saying the new helmet is “a single element of a comprehensive brand and identity project”.
This isn’t the first time the MSU helmet logo has changed — the most recent was in 1983. But whether this branding strategy is about changing a single image or revamping everything from colors to fonts, there is a question that has yet to be answered: why?
Not only is the Spartan brand already a powerful identity, but MSU announced in October a plan to restructure in light of the state’s poor economy. Included in the plan was the elimination of 13 master’s degree programs and 16 undergraduate degree programs. While it’s still unclear how Nike’s involvement with the redesign factors into the overall costs, this brand project will cost money to implement. How is a major re-branding effort part of the plan to cut the budget?
My guess is that MSU isn’t happy about the premature timing of this announcement, but I hope the surge of criticism encourages them to examine — and explain — the logistics behind the redesign. And who knows? Maybe the fans will get the last word.