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?
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®?