SBJ/November 19-25, 2012/Olympics

U.S. flag highlighted in tweaked USOC logo, marking first design change in 25 years

The U.S. Olympic Committee is retiring the USA five-ring logo that sponsors have featured on products ranging from beer to yogurt to shampoo during the last 25 years.

The organization will require sponsors to use a new mark featuring the U.S. flag and the Olympic rings to identify their support of Team USA during the Sochi Games and subsequent Olympics.

USOC sponsors began using the USA five-ring logo in 1988 and have put it on everything from business cards and stationery to apparel and consumer products over the years. The organization is doing away with that logo to comply with International Olympic Committee standards, which don’t allow national Olympic committees to use abbreviations such as USA in their official marks. Other countries use their flags instead, and the USOC opted to take the same approach in designing a logo that features the U.S. flag and the five rings. The logos were designed in-house.

“We did some research on this mark and saw that both consumers and marketers liked it and accepted it,” said Patrick Sandusky, the USOC’s chief communications officer. “It was a chance to get in line with the Olympic charter. We have an opportunity to unify our logos and build over the long term.”

USOC sponsors can choose from two logos. One features the U.S. flag above the traditional, multicolor Olympic rings. The other features it above a solid, navy blue set of rings.

Sponsors and Olympic marketers said the change won’t have a major impact on them. The USOC is allowing them to phase the logo in gradually over the next 14 months before the Sochi Games, and they have plenty of time to incorporate it into new creative and products. They said the cost of changing logos on stationery and other items would be negligible, but it will take time before people recognize it.

“It’s great that the USOC is doing this branding exercise and making sure their logo is more contemporary and consistent in look, tone and feel,” said Michael Lynch, a former Visa sports marketing executive who is now an independent consultant. “The challenge on it is that companies who have invested heavily in the USOC are being asked to use a new logo after having composite logos with another mark. It will take some time to build brand equity in the new logo. Sochi isn’t foremost on people’s mind, so when [the logo] comes in it will look new and fresh and be in the front of people’s minds.”


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