COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)–Fans of the Columbus Crew are excited by the team’s decision to walk back some aspects of its controversial rebrand that didn’t sit well with many of them.
Many of those fans surprised that the rollout of that rebrand lasted only a week before the team’s ownership reconsidered.
“It’s really kind of a testament to how involved the front office and ownership wants to be with us, that they kind of pushed this to the top of their agenda list and got this done on a Monday and were able to rectify certain inadequacies with the rebrand, the process and the engagement in the span of the week,” said Joey Dinapoli, head of the Yellow Nation Army.
“I think we saved the crew two years ago from relocation and today we preserved the legacy of that victory and the legacy of the club moving forward,” said Jeff Barger, communications director for The Nordecke.
Barger was one of a select few in the room when the rebrand was first revealed to fans days before its official announcement.
“I gave my feedback to them, ‘This is going to go bad. The crew community is not going to get on board with this, specifically the name change,'” Barger said. “The name is who we are. It’s our identity as a community, as a club and in part, it’s what we fought to save…we saved ‘The Crew.’
Despite the negative feedback, Barger said fans were told the changes were “locked in.”
“They wanted our buy-in, they wanted us to be able to get on board and when we couldn’t. I think that was hard for them,” he said.
Days later, the rebrand was leaked and eventually, officially released.
Fan reaction matched that initial reaction in the room, confused as to why a team with global recognition would want to change their look months after winning a championship.
“We didn’t build all that up just to see, one – the team leave or two – be stripped of its identity,” Dinapoli said. “The rebrand got in the way of the momentum of the team, which is kind of silly to say because they’re MLS cup champions, there’s a new stadium on the horizon.”
“No one wanted to have this fight with the club, with ownership right now,” Barger said. “The ownership has done an amazing job of building a team, of building an amazing stadium. We won the MLS cup last year. Everything up to this point has been so positive, there was some exhaustion as to the fact that we had to fight it.”
Fans did fight the changes, protesting outside the historic crew stadium hours after the rebrand was revealed and vowing to make their voices heard at future matches.
A week later, fans were invited back into the room for another conversation with the team’s ownership. Barger said their commitment to making things right with fans was apparent, especially since the changes to the rebrand will cost them even more.
“The signage for the new stadium is done, the signage for the experience center in historic crew stadium is done. They looked at all of that and said ‘Ok, we’re going to redo it.’ I can’t even begin to guess how much money that’s going to cost to just scrap that,” Barger said. “They’re going to Adidas to talk to them about jerseys and correcting jerseys. These are not small changes. These are not easy things to make happen. They stepped in a major way, not to just to make these simple changes and change a graphic on Twitter or Instagram or something like that…but to change concrete physical things that require a significant amount of money to change.”
The most important things for fans, is that the name’s remain ‘Columbus Crew’.
“I feel like a lot of the identity we kind of lost with the initial rebrand is integrated back into the name and the new branding and that’s so important our identity because it’s the one we worked so hard to save and establish,” Dinapoli said.
“There are clubs in Europe who have had their names and their nicknames for over 100 years, 150 years. So when we look to what we want to be as a community, when we look to what little history we have, in defining what matters to that, the name is incredibly significant because it’s a direct tie to where we began, where we’re going and ultimately where we’d like to be. as a club as a team as a community,” Barger said.
In the process of their discussions, the team’s ownership has agreed to work more closely with its fan base moving forward.
“Ownership and the club has agreed to establish a supporter liaison position that will work directly with the crew community. The Nordecke will be establishing a fan council and ownership has agreed to meet with that fan council on a regular basis,” Barger said. “These are things that don’t happen a lot in professional sports and so for us to have our voices heard on this current issue and then it being resolved with a compromise but a good compromise and then also to put mechanisms in place to build a better relationship going forward is a huge positive step.”
“I’m very encouraged, very enthused with the fact that they want to move forward with more fan engagement,” Dinapoli said.
There is one part of the rebrand that will be kind of, sort of, somewhat missed.
“RIP Crew Triangle. Sad to see you go but happy to watch you leave,” said Barger.
“It will be missed, especially since it was never explained, to begin with.” Dinapoli laughed. “I’m glad to see it being replaced with a 96′ though.”