On Tuesday, the week of frenzied uneasiness will be subdued as the Cleveland Browns unveil their new primary logo. The Browns have embarked on one of the most difficult attempts at a rebrand in professional sports history. It’s one of the most trying for several reasons, but I have some thoughts before the chalk outline is filled in and the curtain is raised on the new design direction.
First, let’s discuss why the Browns’ look is so important to us. I’ve heard a non-singular contingent express a couple of views that I couldn’t consider more ludicrous. The first is no stranger to the ire of this site’s writers (looking at you, Craig): “I don’t care what they wear. Just win!” The second is “This team has been so bad for so long. Change it all.” To make the first argument only document’s one inability to understand the division of labor an organization has, mainly the business/marketing side versus the player personnel department. To make the second, however, infuriates me moreso because it indicates a true lack of understanding about the Browns on an important level in my mind.
When Modell moved the team, the only thing we had left to fight for was our history, our name, and our colors. Those historical records, that name “Cleveland Browns,” and that seal brown and burnt orange are the only thing that tie it all together. To on a whim decide to drastically change that color scheme would be a disgrace to all of the work done in the mid-90s to keep our cherished heritage. I’m okay with a different shade perhaps, but this team’s primary colors should always be orange and brown. Period.
As for that logo, the only thing we’ll know about after Tuesday, with uniforms to follow at some future date closer to the draft, it won’t be perfect. There’s no way to simultaneously appease the faction who wants something bold and loud as well as the collection that do not want a dog, an elf, or anything “gimmicky” to replace a classic look. I’ve shared my thoughts in a tandem article with Rick about a year and a half ago before the announcement of the uniform change. I would prefer to go in the direction of Brownie rather than the “Dawg Pound” idea, but I think a fair case can be made for both.
There’s another angle most haven’t covered, something simple but unique and marketable. Can the Browns find that happy medium? I offer up a half dozen logos that are not bells and whistles but are unique, immediately identifiable with their team, and you don’t hear many complaints about these teams’ looks.
The Packers have a white G in a green circle, which is also on their helmets. The Bears have a long and thin wishbone C, same deal with their helmet, and they have some secondary bear logos. The Bengals have a B with Bengal stripes on it. The Giants have a stylized “NY” and had “GIANTS” before that on their helmet. The Jets logo is basically a football and oval with the team name and colors. The 49ers primarily use an “SF” seal.
Six teams in the league, many of them big market teams or incredibly popular teams, and they’re doing just fine with letters and some light styling. One of the concepts I saw had the Browns using a C or B with the iconic brown-white-brown stripe incorporated within the letter. There’s even a Reddit report that a Paul Brown silhouette could be involved, which in my mind my stand the best chance at winning the majority of traditionalists and progressives.
How the Browns come out of this rebrand and redesign is going to have an effect on the other two Cleveland franchises in the not-too-distant future, I believe. It’s the worst kept secret that, eventually, the chorus of those who want to remove Chief Wahoo will be too much for the Indians organization to ignore. The Tribe doesn’t have unique colors across MLB (far from it, as half the teams nearly have a red/blue combo of some sort), but they’ve still been in place for the better part of a century.
Likewise, the Cavaliers could be looking to make a change after five seasons in the current look. The Cavs have the luxury of being a winning team right now that has also yo-yoed between two popular color schemes in their 45-year history and four very different primary logos (the 70s Cavalier with plumed hat and sword, the 80s basket V, the 90s basket splash, and the current sword through basketball with sharp font).
To me, there’s nothing wrong with having options in merchandise for fans. The helmet logo isn’t suddenly disappearing from years and years of merchandise. If the team went with a new letter-type logo, you could still have the helmet, Dawg Pound, and Brownie logos for the secondary gear that will appeal to certain fans.
I guess what I’m hoping for more than anything is that the Browns took special care with this decision in trying to honor history while also giving us a new attempt at branding. Likewise, I hope fans give it a chance. The instant reaction will undoubtedly be heated among some, but barring some disgrace, I’m willing to give it a chance. Sometimes logos need time to grow on us.