Madison’s pro soccer team now has an identity and it’s ready to move Forward.
Forward Madison FC was revealed as the team name on Sunday during a presentation at the Wisconsin Historical Society with a gathering of several hundred supporters on hand.
Team management also unveiled its logo, featuring a pink flamingo surrounded by a light blue background drawn from Madison’s city flag. The logo includes the Roman Numerals DCVIII, representing the city’s 608 area code.
The club’s name and branding announcement was the culmination of a months-long process as management sorted through roughly 1,000 submissions and worked through the finalists with a group of team supporters.
“I think the most exciting thing about this process is that it’s a community process,” managing partner Conor Caloia said. “There’s input from thousands of people in the community that helped us figure out what the right name is and even helped us figure out the right look and icon and markets for this franchise.
“Every good name we considered always came back to Forward. It’s very unconventional to have that descriptor before the city name but it just felt like it fit right. Forward Madison felt like it tied to the state motto, felt like it described where we were going and it became very clear to us that it was something that everybody connected with.”
Forward Madison will begin play in March 2019 as a founding member of the USL Division III, an offshoot of the United Soccer League, a second division pro league. Its home games will be played at Breese Stevens Field.
A big part of the branding strategy was to combine the elevated image of the state motto with the quirky, fun side that is so much a part of Madison’s ethos.
“Incorporating the state motto ‘Forward’ is appropriate as it reflects the team’s continuous drive to be a national leader,” said Peter Wilt, managing director of the team. “We also incorporated the official bird of Madison, the pink plastic flamingo, which was also a popular name submission by the fans.”
The pink flamingo has been part of the city’s lore ever since the University of Wisconsin student government, under the Pail and Shovel leadership of Leon Varjian and Jim Mallon, placed more than 1,000 plastic pink flamingos on Bascom Hill to mark the start of classes in 1979.
“Their genius, creativity, whimsy and independence reminds us that life — and soccer, especially in Madison — should be fun and a bit irreverent,” Wilt said.
The team logo was created by Madison agency Planet Propaganda.
Team merchandise bearing the light blue and pink color combination was in high demand from fans who attended the announcement.
“The colors are not usual,” said Andrew Schmidt, a leader of the team support group. “Pink is not usually a color that people align with soccer teams. But I love it. They’re not primary colors that are overwhelming.
“This one is bright, it’s bold. It’s encompassing of the history of this town and also celebrates the fun parts of our culture. We don’t take anything too seriously and we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
That was precisely the balance the ownership group was seeking as it ventured into the soccer world from its roots in summer league baseball with the Madison Mallards.
“Baseball has always been fun first,” managing partner Vern Stenman said. “And with this mark we’re able to get a little bit of fun while still having a very traditional soccer feeling, a European-feeling type name. I think we were able to find a balance between our background in the baseball field and our future in soccer.
“With every team that we do in the sports world, we want to be reflective of the communities we operate in. We feel if we do that we’re going to find success and we’re going to connect with people in a way that matters to them.”