‘It felt like this needed to happen’: Columbus Crew makes new logo, name change to Columbus SC official

General manager Tim Bezbatchenko and chief business officer Steve Lyons explain why the team is changing its name and image.

Jacob Myers
The Columbus Dispatch
The new logo for the Crew, which is now officially known as Columbus SC.

Despite intense backlash over the weekend after the club’s new name and logo was leaked online, Columbus Crew SC is now officially known as Columbus SC with a new logo that is a far departure from the current crest.  

Dropping the name “Crew” from the official team name and having it stay as the club’s nickname — similar to “Reds” for Liverpool in the English Premier League or “Loons” for Minnesota United in Major League Soccer — irritated many of the club’s most loyal supporters.

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General manager Tim Bezbatchenko said fans should continue to call the team “the Crew,” but that focus groups with some supporters and the community informed the club that the city needed to be highlighted more in the name. 

“When we started to think about what our new mindset and mentality was and how we want to take Columbus to the world, it felt like this needed to happen," Bezbatchenko said.

“I think 'the Crew,’ (we're) doubling-down on that and it's going to show up in some really fun places. I hope your articles start with the Crew and we could really use them interchangeably, but we felt like when the names were together, one or the other got lost and we weren't really able to focus on the city, and what this city does for the club, and what the club does for the city." 

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The plan is to use “the Crew” on merchandise and places around new Crew Stadium, including a new poster on the smokestack near the southwest corner of the downtown stadium. 

The new logo design is the shape of the Ohio flag with "Columbus" atop the image, "SC" at the bottom between the flag's swallow tails and a large, blocky, white “C” on a black background in the middle of the flag. 

The primary colors of black and gold are in the crest, but the yellow that has been synonymous with the Crew since its inception as the first team in Major League Soccer is less pronounced than the black and white.

"Our logo, our crest and some of the other crests, you have to squint to read what they are," Bezbatchenko said. "No one has that powerful Ohio flag as a symbol with this large C. Then at the top of it Columbus that really just jumps out."

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The Nordecke, the club’s independent supporters’ group, was informed of the decision on Friday in a meeting with Bezbatchenko and other front office staff members. 

In a statement released Sunday night, the Nordecke said it was “deeply saddened” by the rebrand, more specifically “Crew” not being in the name. The group also urged the club to reconsider their changes and said “Nordecke nor any Crew Supporters Group was involved at any time with the conception, development, or design of this rebrand.” 

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Days before the meeting with the Nordecke, Bezbatchenko said some fans might not like the changes but that he believes they will come to appreciate it over time. 

"I think they're going to be excited about the 'why' because that's what's in the hearts of our fans which is this new mindset, this mentality that we're doing it for the city because the city saved us,” Bezbatchenko said. “I think that understanding will be apparent and I think people will be really excited about it.” 

Why name changed to Columbus SC 

Knowing the name change would be controversial among its fans, the club went to great lengths to say fans should still call the team the Crew even if it’s not in the official team name or on the crest. 

In a video released by the club formally announcing the new changes, the narrator says “Columbus is the Crew, always will be. … What does it look like to be a champion? It's Columbus Soccer Club. It's the Crew."

Chief business officer Steve Lyons said Columbus SC, Columbus Soccer Club and “the Crew” can be used synonymously, but having Columbus standing alone in the name is designed to bring greater attention to the city, which would then help grow the club’s brand. 

"I think the biggest thing is, as we think about Columbus Crew as a beacon for Columbus the city, the idea of Columbus Soccer Club where we pit city against city was incredibly important to how we show up and how we represent Columbus on a global stage,” Lyons said. “But always thinking about being known as the Crew. We are the Crew. The Crew is our DNA. But Columbus Soccer Club is a part of our reference point, if you will, going forward.” 

By getting rid of Crew in the name, Columbus SC has become the 16th of 27 teams in MLS to align with the European model of soccer club names with the city and no nickname in the actual team name. 

Keith Naas, a former member of Save The Crew leadership, said his perceptions of the name change was different once he heard the reasoning from the front office, but still questioned why a change was necessary. 

“I don’t necessarily feel better about the name change,” Naas said, “but I can accept the name change simply because the repeated stress on Crew being important.” 

Morgan Hughes, spokesperson for Save The Crew, also felt more comfortable in the use of “the Crew” but still doesn’t love the name or logo. 

"This is the most they’ve ever used the Crew moniker but they are getting rid of it from the name,” Hughes said. “I don’t think it was done maliciously and it doesn't change what I feel about the team or the direction. The future is still very bright.” 

The rebrand process for Columbus SC

Lyons said the rebrand process began when Dee and Jimmy Haslam and Dr. Pete Edwards bought the team, a move that kept the Crew in Columbus. JW Johnson, the son-in-law of Dee and Jimmy Haslam, was heavily involved in the project, Lyons said.

The front office went through multiple stages of focus groups and fan surveys beginning in 2019 when the club partnered with IBM iX. Lyons said ownership was clear “the Crew” and black and gold had to stay in any rebranding, which Bezbatchenko said was clear from supporters’ feedback.

Specific questions in those focus groups and surveys, and who was involved, is unknown, but Lyons said it was a mix of discussions with supporters and the business community to get feedback on the stadium and “how we were building the basis of our club going forward.” 

When asked if the club allowed supporters an opportunity to give their thoughts on the new name and crest before it was finalized, Lyons didn’t say yes or no, rather that the name and the crest is a reflection of conversations with supporters and the business community that lasted more than a year. 

Jeff Barger, the communications director of the Nordecke, disagreed with how the club characterized involvement from supporters’ groups in the rebrand discussion. He said he was asked to provide names for a focus group on the stadium and that those names do not make up more than 20% of the focus group. 

With a slide titled “Respect Our Roots” on the screen, Bezbatchenko said the new brand reflects the club’s thinking about the future and expanding its global brand while honoring the 26-year tradition. 

"We're always trying to reach higher. We're always trying to be better. We always want to keep learning,” he said. “We're not going to be a club or organization that is just OK with who we are at the moment."