Old Glory design brings crisis to Under Armour and Northwestern University


By Benjamin Haslem
The use of a national flag in any marketing or promotional setting is fraught with risk.

When it's the Stars and Stripes, that risk rises into the infra-red.

So you would think when Chicago's Northwestern University and American sports clothing company Under Armour decided to team up to design  flag-themed football uniforms for the latter, they would have been uber cautious.

The idea behind the uniforms was noble: to honor veterans and raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Unfortunately, the design appeared to splatter the helmet, gloves and boots with streaks of blood.
The ensuing outcry was understandable.

The university and the clothing company acted swiftly and apologised, claiming the streaks of blood were a misinterpretation.

Northwestern said the special uniforms' pattern "was inspired by the appearance of a flag that has flown proudly over a long period of time. We apologize that the design element could be misinterpreted".

Under Armour described the design as "an authentic distressed pattern which depicts a flag that has flown proudly over a long period of time".

The blue-and-white side of the uniform shows similar blue streaks.

The lesson here is when you're using something as iconic and emotive as Old Glory, you need to be ultra cautious. Use focus groups to road test the design.

Social media will ensure any mistakes are spotted and promoted rapidly.

The founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paul Rieckhoff, tweeted: “Northwestern Honors Wounded Troops With Gore-Porn Football Uniforms".