Crew fans told the club's ownership and front office they made a massive mistake with the club’s rebranding of its name and logo. The team apparently listened.
One week to the day since Columbus Crew SC officially changed its name to Columbus SC, the club has partially nixed the rebrand by returning to the name Columbus Crew, and has gone a step further by dropping “SC,” which was added in a 2014 rebrand effort.
The stunning reversal was the result of a meeting with team owners Dee Haslam, JW Johnson and Dr. Pete Edwards, front office members including general manager Tim Bezbatchenko and chief business officer Steve Lyons, and prominent members of the fanbase — which included leaders of the Save The Crew movement and the club's primary independent supporters' group, the Nordecke.
The primary logo associated with the rebrand — a white ‘C’ inside a yellow/gold outline of the Ohio flag with a black background — will largely stay intact. The one change to the image will be the number 96 in the bottom right corner to replace a triangle.
The number is a nod to the year 1996 when the club began play as Major League Soccer's first-ever member. Having "96" in the crest also keeps a core element of the previous logo that was widely considered one of the best in MLS.
What was initially anticipated as a conversation-starter about what fans wanted the club to do to repair its relations with the fans, the ownership and front office presented a small, diverse group of supporters the new logo with the name “Columbus Crew” and asked members of the group their thoughts.
The club released a joint statement with the Nordecke: "The importance of keeping the Crew as the Club’s primary identifier was clear. The decision that came from the discussion was that Columbus Crew will remain the team’s official name moving forward.
"The Crew received Nordecke’s support of the name, which will include Columbus Crew as a part of the new crest. In addition, '96' will be placed inside the outline of the Ohio state flag, recognizing the club’s status as the founding member in Major League Soccer."
Nordecke director of communications Jeff Barger told The Dispatch that ownership made concrete steps to repair the relationship with fans.
"Tonight was 100% driven by the club and ownership’s desire to be the best partners they could to the fans and to the supporters, and to not just resolve this issue, but to build in a process going forward to avoid future ones," Barger said.
Barger said Nordecke pledged to create a fan council, and the Crew pledged to meet regularly with supporters and hire a supporters’ liaison position to strengthen its relationship with its fans.
The fallout from the rebrand began almost immediately after Nordecke was informed of the new logo and name change on May 7. Members of Nordecke leadership were outraged and some refused to attend the next day’s game at Crew Stadium.
Once the rebrand leaked and was confirmed by media outlets on May 9, the decision to drop “Crew” from the name and the design of the new primary logo was criticized heavily by Crew fans, American soccer fans and media.
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Nordecke publicly called for boycotts of purchasing new merchandise associated with the name change to Columbus SC and the new logo, and fans even gathered in a small protest outside Crew Stadium after the rebrand was officially announced May 10.
The club should have expected the harsh criticism and backlash after receiving an 18-page report written by Nordecke members Barger and Charles Campisano in January that warned of a “catastrophic” response to the dropping of “Crew” from the team’s name.
In response to a Dispatch story about the report, Crew owners released a statement that admitted the process that led to the rebrand wasn’t done properly.
“The feedback from representatives of the Nordecke was not elevated and discussed at the appropriate level or incorporated enough into our process,” the statement read.
With a new stadium opening July 3, the club wanted to quickly resolve any ongoing conflict with its most ardent supporters. Campisano said the approach ownership took should go a long way to mending any relationships damaged by the rebrand.
“How they approached everything was so positive,” Campisano said. “It felt genuine.”
Follow The Columbus Dispatch's Jacob Myers on Twitter @_jcmyers.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Crew: Name changed back, logo to be redone after fans revolt