Michigan State Spartans Logo – Social Media Fail?

If you’re a college sports fan, you’ve probably heard about the controversy over the leaked news that Michigan State was considering a new logo. Apparently, a fan found out about the possible change when the university filed with the US Trademark Office – and that’s when the proverbial poop hit the fan.

Spartan faithful took to social media channels, including Facebook, to voice their displeasure with the new logo. The fan page “The Old Spartan Logo” amassed over 60,000 fans, all protesting the change.

Late last week, the university caved to the pressure and announced they’d be keeping the existing logo.

I like the existing logo, and thought the proposed new one was ugly. But that’s not the point. The online marketer in me wonders whether the university could have handled this better.

Social media and crowdsourcing are powerful forces indeed. Many claim that Barack Obama won the US Presidential election on the back of social media, and that’s probably true, at least to some extent. But many also claim that John McCain lost the election due to his campaign’s failure to mobilize social media. Could Michigan State have experienced a similar social media fail?

I think they did. These days, news leaks like the new MSU logo are commonplace, and organizations need to be prepared. Instead of joining the conversation, MSU tried to ignore the problem, perhaps in hopes it would go away.

But, like a nasty virus, it didn’t. The university’s attempts to brush off the controversy by saying it was “too early” snowballed into MSU men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo going off on a 6 minute tirade on why fans should, in a word, shut the heck up.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Tom Izzo, and he’s done a boatload of good for the university’s image. But was he really the guy to speak up about the new logo? No. MSU’s official spokespeople should have joined the social media conversation and played up the potential change, explaining the reasons behind it. In brushing it under the rug, they broke one of the cardinal rules of social media: Don’t close your eyes to what’s going on around you. Join the conversation. Embrace it. As Lisa Barone of Outspoken Media says, “at the end of the day, it is he who is smart enough to act (and act quickly) that reaps the biggest reward.”

MSU neither was smart enough to act, nor acted quickly. In the end, they caved to fan pressure and decided to keep the new logo. But instead of getting involved and getting fans into the game, they chose to first ignore, and then condemn them.

And that, my friends, is a social media fail.

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