When John Krull was charged with creating a new identity for the Madison Mallards last fall, as the team broke ground on a new stadium and hired a new field manager, he was given some clear parameters by the team's front office.
"They wanted something tough, but they didn't want to go too mean," says Krull, the associate creative director at Madison's Shine Advertising. "If you look at other sports logos, you'll maybe see a grizzly bear swiping its claws at you or an eagle that's really ferocious. This is a duck. It's only going to get so tough."
Team owner Steve Schmitt, president Vern Stenman and general manager Conor Caloia told Krull that the old logo, a cartoony rendering of Maynard G. Mallard complete with a sideways baseball cap, appealed to 8-year-olds, but maybe not to 38-year-olds.
"It was a little more playful and a little less competitive," says Krull. "So we wanted to give them something that had more of a winning attitude. While I think it was successful during its time, I don't think the old look ever intimidated another team when they came into the ballpark."
Krull's team sketched out more than a dozen logo ideas, eventually settling on two very different options. The Mallards' management quickly and unanimously chose the head with crossed bats over a duck swinging a bat. There was no doubt about it.
"The previous way we've done things, it was like everybody had their ideas and input and opinions and it took forever," says Stenman. "We generally want to listen to everybody. But this was the simplest, easiest logo I've done in my career, and I've done a handful of them. Usually there's some nitpicky discussion, and there was none of that this time."
The result is a bird who means business. He's staring straight ahead with a furrowed brow, gritting his teeth with determination, but not snarling. Green and yellow remain the team's primary colors, but the new logo gets the red out.
Alongside the old logo and uniforms, the new look is decidedly more modern and less whimsical. And while it's doubtful a duck could ever be considered intimidating, when coupled with the new uniforms and color scheme, the new Maynard has a shot at being considered impressive.
"Men love the logo," says Stenman. "The kids that I've talked to love the logo. I don't want to offend grandmothers, because I love 'em, but they don't appear to like our new logo that much. We had one who emailed and said she loves coming to games, but thinks the new logo is too scary. It's a total 180 from the way the logo was before, so I guess you're going to get some people who say, 'Man, that's a scary-looking duck.'"
The experience has been positive enough that Krull and his coworkers at Shine are looking for more opportunities in the sports world.
"I think it's mission accomplished," he says of the finished product. "It's very iconic. It's going to be a really fresh season for the Mallards with the new stadium, the new identity and uniforms. It's really going to be big for them."
The 2011 home opener for the Mallards is Tuesday, June 7, at Warner Park, against the Wisconsin Woodchucks.