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Which Final Four team names and logos are winners?

Posted by ipelton on: April 2nd, 2010

This weekend is the men’s Final Four® college basketball games.  The games will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.  The stadium logo is the subject of a pending trademark application.  But what about the teams?  Which has the best trademarks?

  • Duke Blue Devils
  • Michigan State Spartans
  • Butler Bulldogs
  • West Virginia Mountaineers

West Virginia Mountaineers. I love the WV logo.  The interlocking W and V are very distinctive and memorable.  The colors are nice and are identifiable, while probably not unique they are not a very common color scheme for a school.  I like the name MOUNTAINEERS as it is also quite unique to my knowledge and represents the state, which is full of beautiful mountains and does not promote a whole lot of industry other than tourism.  My one bone to pick is with their mascot, who wears a coonskin hat and carries a rifle.  This looks vastly out of place in a modern sports arena and I’m not sure what could message could come from your mascot carrying a gun.  Grade: B+

Duke Blue Devils. Credit Duke for uniqueness and creativity with the Blue Devils nickname.  But what does it mean?  (According to Wikipedia, the name comes from the French “les Diables Bleus” or “the Blue Devils,” which was the nickname given during World War I to the Chasseurs Alpins, the French Alpine light infantry battalion.  But how many people today know that?) And why the devil, which has negative connotation, rather than a positive team name — after all, you want people to cheer for you.  The logo is good, even if it is odd.  It is unique.  I like the inside of the “D” formed by the character head.  Grade: B- (creative, unique, good design, but meaning negative and/or lost on most people)

Butler Bulldogs. While lots of fans are pulling for Butler, the relative underdog playing a few miles from their campus, I like all the team names and logo except for Butler’s.  BULLDOGS is not original.  If you say we are going to see the BULLDOGS game, you could be talking about one of several teams.  The Georgia Bulldogs?  Gonzaga?  There are numerous teams that use the BULLDOG name or use a bulldog as their mascot.  See list here.  Evidence of the lack of distinctiveness for BULLDOGS, as well as Butler’s lack of experience on the big athletic (= big money) stage is that Butler Bulldogs is not a registered trademark.  The school just applied to register its BUTLER UNIVERSITY name in January.  In contrast, MOUNTAINEERS, MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS, and BLUE DEVILS are all registered trademarks.  These school make millions of dollars off of ticket sales, TV contracts, and products carrying the team names and logos.  Just look in the stands at the Final Four for proof.  Grade C- (not distinctive, not protected)

Michigan State Spartans. As far as I know, there are no other Spartans.  The name is a good one for sports, as its meaning has to do with toughness and battle.  The logo helmet is quite distinctive and stands out among college team logos.  It is easy to attach a story, a theme, and brand to the Spartan name and logo.  Grade B+.

Michigan State and West Virginia have the best trademarks in my opinion.  I tip the scales in favor of the Spartans because of the silly mascot for the Mountaineers.

Lesson: is your brand unique, or is it lost in a sea of mediocre names like the Bulldogs?  Is your trademark and brand name ready for the big time, when you make an appearance in your industry’s version of the Final Four®?

While lots of fans are pulling for Butler, the relative underdog playing a few miles from their campus, I like all the team names and logo except for Butler’s.  BULLDOGS is not original.  If you say we are going to see the BULLDOGS game, you could be talking about one of several teams.  The Georgia Bulldogs?  Gonzaga?  There are numerous teams that use the BULLDOG name or use a bulldog as their mascot.  See list here.  Evidence of the lack of distinctiveness for BULLDOGS, as well as Butler’s lack of experience on the big athletic (= big money) stage is that Butler Bulldogs is not a registered trademark.  The school just applied to register its BUTLER UNIVERSITY name in January.  In contrast, MOUNTAINEERS, MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS, and BLUE DEVILS are all registered trademarks.  These school make millions of dollars off of ticket sales, TV contracts, and products carrying the team names and logos.  Just look in the stands at the Final Four for proof.
5 Responses
  1. Lexie says:

    Nice analysis. Found your site via a google alert for college mascots. Appreciate the content.

    Butler has done an amazing job of marketing via social media with their live Bulldog mascot, Butler Blue 2. He is active on twitter (@ButlerBlue2), has a blog (http://butlerblue2.blogspot.com) and a flickr account. Because of him, I now know that Butler is in Indiana and has about 4,000 students- all of this before they made it to the FinalFour. He even did a drawing for his calendars as his twitter followers increased.

    I’m not sure if or how his owner is compensated for his time.

    Though the Butler colors and nickname are fairly common, their use of social media for their mascot is sets them apart.

    Of course, I have a particular interest in mascots so I’m not sure of the impact on the general population, but he’s done well with this Longhorn.

  2. Jeremy says:

    Spartans is def the winner, except I think that the historical reference might be lost on those lacking the quality education provided by Newton South HS (and other fine schools throughout the country!)

  3. Mike A says:

    The nickname “Spartans” is not exclusive to Michigan State. San Jose State also goes by “Spartans”. Several other schools also use that nickname including the University of Tampa and UNC-Greensboro.

    As for West Virginia’s logo, one thing I love about it is that the interlocking W and V are meant to look like the state’s mountains (Appalachains).

    Duke’s logo is certainly recognizable from all national exposure of its basketball team.

    Butler? Their is common and ordinary. The best known Bulldogs nickname in my opinion belongs to the University of Georgia. Other schools with this very common nickname include but are not limited to Mississippi State, The Ciitadel, Yale, Fresno State, Gonzaga, and Louisiana Tech.

  4. […] for the spotlight. as I said in my Final Four post last year, “is your trademark and brand name ready […]