Forward Thinking: How Forward Madison FC Decided Their Newly Beloved Crest

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It’s rare to see the majority of the soccer world all in favor of a new crest. A crest that captures the personality of the city, colors brought by the eclectic residents, and one that stands out more than others. Forward Madison FC went to the community to get help for what is now one of the most beloved crests in the soccer community. And while the background story about the plastic flamingo and why it was chosen has made its way throughout the press, this is the story about how the crest was chosen and how it almost wasn’t the one that set the internet ablaze.

For those still unaware, USL League One’s new team Forward Madison FC, caught the eyes of many when it revealed its crest as a plastic pink flamingo- the city’s official bird after UW-Madison students put 1,008 plastic pink flamingo lawn ornaments across the university’s front lawn as a prank back in 1979, leading to the official adoption of the bird in 2009. This was the type of quirkiness and “Madison-ness” that Managing Director Peter Wilt wanted represented with the new crest and team in Madison.

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“I think we wanted to reflect the spirit of the community. And Madison is a progressive community that doesn’t always follow the mainstream of the United States. As a community, they kind of forge their own path and they’re not always serious. That story of the flamingos is a representation of that culture that has been built in Madison, largely because it’s a university town and it has a progressive, indeed liberal, history that doesn’t always take itself so seriously.”

It wasn’t luck or going with a backstory that ultimately decided the crest. After Peter and his team- including Kuba Krzyzostaniak, Director of Fan Engagement and Digital Media -held focus groups, surveys, and input from the community, they knew they were on the right path of representing their community in a way that would make the town proud. Kuba spoke about the authenticity, saying:

I think for us, it’s kind of a lot about being authentic and so with the uniqueness of the crest that being true to our community, true to Madison, and how people here view the city and view themselves as kind of being fun, quirky, and different. I think we’re just being really authentic and unique to what our community is about..”

However, the process was a long one and at times sailing wasn’t smooth. In fact, the crest we now love almost didn’t happen, as Peter Wilt explains:

“Forward was the ultimate decision on the name because it was the most popular voted name, we recognize that that name cannot really have a tangible icon that will help fans connect with. So, we started thinking about how we could get an icon incorporated into it. The one that was obvious to us was the Lady Forward statue and we did go down the road quite a bit with that,  to the point that we had several logo designs made with her in it and then a fan, who is also a friend of mine, a former season ticket holder with Chicago Fire, told me how disappointed she was that Flamingos didn’t make the final cut. I told her that after Forward, I think we had more submissions for Flamingos than any other name and I’ve always loved the flamingo story with Bascom Hill. So, I pushed it to our ownership and I was pleased that they embraced it. I think at first they may have been a little hesitant to go divert a little bit from tradition and have essentially inanimate pink plastic flamingo is a bit unusual but they quickly embraced it.”

Peter continued speaking about once the decision was made on the flamingos:

“So, once we had bought in internally, then it was a matter of getting the actual image of what it would look like, and that was a process that took longer than I think any of us wanted. We were busy trying to market the team and connect with the community and once we have a logo and a name, it’s easier to do. But we also recognize that you only get one chance to do this and we wanted to make sure it’s done right.”

And “right” they did. Moving forward, no pun intended, the club hopes to continue to build on its marketing and overall success by doing what’s worked: using the community’s voice. Kuba closed our interview thinking about the future.

“I think that’s kind of what it comes back to for us, is just building from the ground up and making sure we’re getting in front of everybody in our community as much as possible and telling them about our club and getting them excited. From the grassroots all the way up.”

- Jason Weintraub