The Roar Of The Crowdsourcing

Way back when the Gap found itself in a flap over its new logo design, I asked around and some people agreed: Crowdsourcing is way underutilized.

When the general managers of professional sports franchises need to make midseason roster moves to get their teams into the playoffs, why are they turning for advice to the overpaid scouts who got them into the current predicament in the first place? Why don't they just tune in to the local sports radio station? Oscar from Piscataway or Shirley from Rancho Cucamonga always seem to have thought of something that no one else has.

And who needs a national security adviser and far-flung staff, Mr. President, when you have Mark Levin's and/or Ed Shultz'  legions of informed citizenry to guide you on your next major policy decision?

This is what occurred to me when I read about the brouhaha over the 1. The Big Ten's new logo and 2. The new names of the two divisions of six teams each, Legends and Leaders, of the Big Ten athletic conference.

Let's start, however, with the obvious truth-in-advertising dilemma. The Big Ten has actually been the Bigger Eleven since Penn State came aboard 20 years ago and, with the recent addition of Nebraska, it could rightfully be called Gigantic Dozen. It actually was the Big Nine from 1899 to 1917, but we won't go there.

What kind of life lesson are we teaching our kids by denying the reality of the situation, not to mention getting the math wrong? Quite simply, that the brand name trumps all.

"The name has so much heritage that it transcends arithmetic," says Michael Bierut, who, with Pentagram partner Michael Gericke was one of the lead designers of the new logo.

"The new logo was developed to symbolize the conference's future, as well as its heritage and tradition of competition," says Gericke on the firm's blog. "Going forward, fans will know The Big Ten will always be The Big Ten."

That aside, the airwaves and Twitter feeds have evidently been crackling with dissent, according to Ken Belson in the New York Times.

"Branding experts and sports consultants agree that fans dislike change and are quick to criticize it, and that names need time to grow on people," Belson wrote last week. "But they also say that the names Legends and Leaders are misleading and do not help fans outside the Big Ten understand where teams play."

Designer Stephanie Orma musters a compelling defense of the logo in her piece in Fast Company, "Why Do College Sports Fans Hate the Big Ten's Smart New Logo?" Batting down criticisms about the typography looking "too simple" and the color "too weak," she also points out that the current -- and apparently beloved -- logo was also derided by fans when it was introduced two decades ago.

Besides, who said the conference wasn't considering the wisdom of the crowd?

"When we announced football division alignments in September, other associated decisions had not yet been made," says James E. Delany, the commissioner of the Big Ten. "We wanted to take some time to listen, carefully consider, and make choices that would best honor our history and traditions, reflect our core values and characteristics, and tell our story. We involved many thoughtful, dedicated professionals and we listened to many ideas from our member schools, alumni and fans."

And then, with the clock approaching 0:00, they did what marketers will always do. They put the ball in the hands of their most experienced player and hoped for a winning score. As of 7:02 EST on 12/29/10, the pigskin is still in the air.

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