Columbus Crew co-owner Dee Haslam: Initial rebrand was a ‘misstep,’ new logo here to stay

Haslam said resolving the rebrand saga bonded ownership with supporters more than they were before the rebrand.

Jacob Myers
The Columbus Dispatch
Columbus Crew co-owner Dee Haslam appears at an event to name the stadium Field on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. At right is executive vice president Steve Lyons.

While the saga around the Columbus Crew’s failed rebrand was resolved in a meeting between ownership and a group of eight supporters nearly a month ago, Crew co-owner Dee Haslam answered questions from the media on the rebrand for the first time on Tuesday, calling the endeavor a “misstep.” 

Following the announcement of as the Columbus Crew’s official naming rights partner for the new stadium, Haslam didn’t offer specifics on what ownership would have done differently to avoid upsetting fans, but said she believed the club’s relationship with supporters will be stronger having gone through the dilemma.

"I think our relationship with our supporters is so critical,” Haslam said. “As kind of a misstep that was, we learned so much and it actually bonded us a lot. Sometimes something like that happens and it ends up being better in the long run. We really feel like our relationship is really strong, we're making a lot of progress and working with them really hard on opening night with the match here." 

The club's rebrand from Columbus Crew SC to Columbus SC in May created a crisis less than two months before opening a new downtown stadium that should be a top destination in Major League Soccer and for Columbus sports fans. 

The Columbus Crew's new $313.9 million, 20,000-seat stadium just west of the Arena District in Astor Park has been officially named Field, the club announced Tuesday. From left: Team co-owner Dr. Pete Edwards, CEO Dan Snyder, team co-owner Dee Haslam, Executive Vice President Stephen Lyons and President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko.

The immediate backlash over the new team name and logo, as well as the Nordecke supporters’ group claims that the most loyal fans were largely not included in rebrand discussions, overshadowed all the progress the club had made since the Dee and Jimmy Haslam, and JW and Whitney Johnson, became majority owners before the 2019 season. 

A week after the club officially launched its name as Columbus SC with a new logo, Dee Haslam and JW Johnson offered apologies to the supporters in that meeting. The club’s name changed back to its original name when it entered the league in 1996, Columbus Crew, and the logo was altered to include a “96” and “Crew.”

Haslam told supporters in that meeting that she had not seen a report sent to a few front office members — but was not sent to general manager Tim Bezbatchenko — that said the rebrand would be "catastrophic."

RELATED:Inside look at the meeting that changed Columbus SC back to Columbus Crew

On Tuesday, Haslam didn’t say whether or not it was an error not to receive feedback from fans on the final product before announcing the change to the club’s identity. 

“You can always second-guess yourself,” she said. “I don't know. Obviously probably would've done it differently, right?” 

Establishing “Crew” back into the team name was the primary objective for supporters entering that meeting with ownership in May. A large portion of the club’s most loyal fans still prefer the previous circular logo to the current, revised one. Haslam, however, indicated it’s not going anywhere any time soon. 

"The Crew logo?” she said. “I think we're in a good place.” 

In a conversation with The Dispatch earlier this month, Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said he had no concerns about whether or not the club could move forward constructively and have a repaired relationship with its supporters. 

He said the Crew knows where the rebrand process missed the mark, but said that will stay between the club and supporters. 

"We all have the same mission and we're all trying to do the same thing," Bezbatchenko said. “I'm excited about the leadership and the collaboration between the two groups.”