More Businesses Embrace Contests, Crowdsourcing NBA Teams Are Latest to Democratize Design Process for New Uniforms

By Sanserino, Michael | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), November 2, 2014 | Go to article overview

More Businesses Embrace Contests, Crowdsourcing NBA Teams Are Latest to Democratize Design Process for New Uniforms


Sanserino, Michael, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


The Dallas Mavericks' newest jersey design came from a former marketing executive with no graphic design experience who dreamed up the concept in high school.

Geoff Case, now 32, has always been a big fan of the National Basketball Association team owned by Mt. Lebanon native Mark Cuban. As a high schooler in suburban Dallas, Mr. Case sketched an idea for a Mavericks jersey in his notebook, based on the Texas city's unmistakable skyline.

Years later, the Mavericks launched a fan contest to design an alternate jersey that the team would wear in the 2015-16 season.

After browsing early entries during a lunch break - and seeing nothing he liked - Mr. Case was inspired to resurrect that idea from high school.

He took a couple days off from work to craft his entry, watching old Mavericks games on YouTube and listening to thumping Kanye West songs for motivation.

When fellow Mavericks fans voted Mr. Case's design the best, the outcome changed his life.

He quit his job as a digital marketing manager for a sport supplements company and launched his own design firm, 1 Man Agency.

He didn't get rich off the jersey design - or anywhere near it. Mr. Case received a $1,000 prize and 2015-16 season tickets.

But the contest gave his new firm a "signature moment" and exposed him to potential clients.

In many ways, this was a win-win arrangement. Mr. Case got exposure and a lot of business leads, and the Mavericks received a low-cost jersey design and a lot of buzz for their organization.

Those are the best parts about crowdsourcing, which democratizes the creative process to give amateurs, novices or anybody with a good idea an outlet. The concept has grown significantly in the past five years as social media has evolved and more businesses have embraced the idea.

Doritos has used a "Crash the Super Bowl" commercial contest since 2007 that gives people a chance to win $1 million by creating commercials for the brand, a division of Texas-based Frito-Lay.

The Golden State Warriors, another NBA team, had a contest to design T-shirts for fan night, where four finalists and a winner each received a pair of tickets to a game.

The Milwaukee Brewers had a fan contest to design a jersey the team will wear during a spring training game.

Crowdsourcing ideas that capture the interest of sports fans can be effective because the most important thing about the process is that the crowd is engaged, said Jeff Howe, an assistant journalism professor and coordinator of the media innovations program at Northeastern University in Boston.

"When you have that level of motivation, that's what crowdsourcing is about," Mr. Howe said. "It taps all these alternate currencies."

Mr. Howe coined the term "crowdsourcing" in 2005 when he was working on a piece for Wired magazine. The idea means to outsource ideas to the crowd, and he was fascinated how businesses used the Internet to find amateurs for hire.

The movement has had drastic, sometimes devastating, effects on the professional creative community.

Stock photography used to be a lucrative avenue for professional photographers selling images, Mr. Howe said. But crowdsourcing has changed the market so that photos that once sold for $300 are now available for 99 cents.

"Crowdsourcing eradicated an entire business in the space of a couple years," Mr. Howe said. "It was like locusts."

There is a similar concern in the professional design community, where advocates have spoken out against crowdsourcing.

Richard Grefe, executive director and CEO of the New York-based AIGA, formerly the American Institute of Graphic Arts, said crowdsourcing devalues the most important part of graphic design.

The real value, he said, is having artists talk to clients to better understand their business and their problem.

"It's really like Clip Art," he said, referring to the computer- based stock image service. …

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