Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Soccernomics: New Timbers Crest, Take 2

Now that I have commented about it a couple of times I am kinda locked in to commenting once again (and hopefully for the last time) about the Timbers sudden and abrupt re-jiggering of their new crest.  In case you missed the drama, the Timbers, with lots of pomp and circumstance, introduced their new MLS crest in Director Park, during halftime of the USA-England match.  [Weird to think of the hype now, after both sides were revealed to be decidedly mediocre]  The unveiling did not go well. A vocal group of Timbers Army-types announced their displeasure almost immediately with a profanity laced chant.  Classy.

Here was the original version:

Timbers Army types hated it - but special ire was directed at the axe, which, with the shading and detail, was derided as 'cartoonish.' In fact I got a comment on this blog directing me to a Facebook page dedicated to getting the Timbers to change it. No way in heck, thought I, will the Timbers touch it. To me it represented the Timbers trying to stay in touch with the roots of the team (in reality these roots are entirely erzatz, I mean come on, resurecting ther mame for a second division franchise is not the same thing as having a long-standing team).  I was equivocal about it, but my initial reaction was that the shading on the axe was bad.  In fact it was especially bad when the secondary color was produced as yellow which it was a lot at first. In fact, I thought that the Timbers did this intentionally to ease the transition away from yellow. If so, this was a mistake, because the axe shading works much better in the moss green that is the actual secondary color.  In fact the first logo started growing on me and my eight year old son eagerly grabbed a new t-shirt and has worn it proudly:

Which I think, in the dark/light green colors, looks pretty snazzy. Not at all classic like I prefer, but then it is not about me, and I can be objective.

Next thing you know the Timbers abruptly cave to the Timbers Army and announce the newly redesigned new logo:

Which seems to me an improvement in some ways - the logo is a bit cleaner and simpler - but essentially unchanged, save for the axe which has no detail at all. And now, I am not so sure which I prefer. [What I am sure about is that I am pissed off that I spent $20 on a temporary logo shirt for the boy - I await word about what they are going to do with people like me] The boy hates the new logo compared to the old one, which makes sense to me - the old one seemed more geared to the younger set.  The new one feels less logo-y and more crest-y so I guess if I saw the two and had to pick I'd pick the new one, but it sure has the feel of a compromise - a fully realized design tweaked at the last minute.  I thought a good compromise would have been a refreshed original logo as a secondary crest.  And if you are going to redesign it, you should start from scratch.  So in then end, I think the Timbers should have stuck to their original design and, like Arsenal, the fury would have quickly subsided.

I don't know whether to think the Timbers should be applauded for reposinding to the criticism or if this portends something worse - letting the Timbers Army have too much agency over the team's business decisions. The Timbers should have involved the Army in the design process from the get-go, for sure,  and they blundered on the public unveiling because they didn't.  And the Timbers Army has every right to express their opinion and they matter a lot - a successful MLS Timbers need them.  But come on, is this new new logo so different that before the world was ending and now everything is sunshine and light?  No.  [And of course, lots of folks still hate it]

The fact is that the Timbers Army are great and a big reason that soccer in Portland is unique, but they too often act like adolescents and are going to have to clean up their act if the Timbers are going to be a successful MLS team. Profane chanting in a public square? - c'mon, that is totally bush league. The Timbers are going to have to fill a lot of expensive seats and families don't always like sitting and listening to chanted obscenities for two hours.  So there is going to have to be a middle ground here and I know the Timbers Army feel ownership of the team right now, but they are going to have to learn to share.

So that's all soccer, where is the 'nomics? Well, the Timbers are in the always sticky situation of trying to attract new customers while still keeping the loyal ones happy.  Remember New Coke?  I didn't think so.  There is an additional pitfall when part of the allure of being a customer is that you are part of a small club.  It is similar to a popular underground band that hits big.  All of a sudden some of of the utility customers got from consuming the band's music disappears as part of the fun was knowing about a band only a few others did as well.  Lots of big time companies have trouble with this, so it does not surprise me that the Timbers have too.  A little more inclusion before and a little more spine after would seem to have been a better strategy.

Oh, and as far as merchandise, the Timbers are trying to have it both ways: hawking the old stuff without explicitly disclosing than change.  In fact if you go to their website the front page has the redesigned logo but the merchandise page has the original new logo with lots of gear to match. [UPDATE: They fixed the logo on the store page - good job - but still show merchandise withe the old logo and no explanation] This is not cool.  This seems to me like something awfully close to fraud - deliberately trying to mislead.


David said...

I watched the game at Director Park, and was there for the unveiling. Just ridiculous. I remember thinking, well, I definitely preferred the old logo, but this one's not really all that different. I'm a pretty passionate member of the Army at the games, but even I (and other Army members standing near me) found the reaction of those select few to be childish and unnecessarily offensive. And as crazy as I can be at times, I couldn't help but agree with the comment from the man next to me: "Seriously guys, get a life."

Patrick Emerson said...

I like crazy, I like passionate, but there is a line where crazy and passionate just gets pointless. And if Arsenal supporters can deal with a radically updated logo, so too can the TA, I suspect.

Let's just get back to the game and a thorough thrashing of the Sounders tomorrow.

Dylan said...

I'm not sure what to think of the Timbers Army and it's relationship w/Paulson. Paulson's in a bit of a tight spot because of the lack of diversification of his customer base - basically TA and the "family-friendly" crowd. He needs the revenue from the TA, but if the TA alienates too many of the "family-friendly" crowd, he won't get any revenue from them when they stop going to games. On the other hand, if he were to cater too much to the "family-friendly" crowd and impose a lot of restrictions on the TA, they'll leave and Paulson's revenue will fall.

Being that all of Paulson's costs are fixed (in the short to mid-run), he cannot allow any sort of revenue decline.

I guess that what bugs me about the Timbers Army is the swearing. I'm all for swearing and other "adult" activities in the right venue (e.g. having an "adult section" in the video store that also has a kids section). However, in public, why do people need to swear? If one wants to swear in one's own house, go nuts, but why should I (or anyone else) be subjected to non-gentile behavior in public?

I know that NFL crowds are no picnic at all, especially in the East (and Oakland). But we don't live in the East and I don't expect the social mores of the East to be imposed on those of us in the West. Just because there's foul-mouthed bozos at a Philadelphia Eagles game doesn't mean that there should be foul-mouthed bozos at a Timbers game.

So Patrick - what do you think (as an economist) Paulson should do? He needs the revenue from the TA and the TA-avoiders, but they almost seem to be mutually exclusive. Any thoughts on what Paulson should do to maximize revenue (his costs should remain the same regardless if the TA is at the game or not - am I right?).

Dylan said...

Lastly - It's just a logo! I'm an OSU alum and I liked the old "smiling" Benny better than the "mean" Benny. But I didn't swear when I saw the new logo. I also liked Bernice too (if anyone remembers her) and she's been long gone. But my devotion to the team and didn't fluctuate because of a logo.

All of concern over the logo is kind of foolish. If the team is great, does the logo matter? If the team is terrible does the logo matter? It's the play on the field that counts.