FAHA: Sponsor control over logos, colors and placement

This team struggles with keeping their team’s theme due to intervention from their sponsors. What advice can you offer?

Our team colors are green and black (not Moe green, more of a light green) We have worked hard over the years to make these colors part of our brand. 

We recently got a new sponsor. Their rules are that their logo is to appear at the top of any other logos and it is to appear in blue. They are not the largest sponsor but they do account for 15% of our sponsor dollars. 

Our shirts are green with black printing. To save costs we only print in one color. 

We asked about the "top and blue" rules and were told that it was the requirement to get the money. 


Should we move the new sponsor to the top of our shirts possilbly alienating our biggest sponsor?

Should we print in their color?

Should we decide that our branding and other sponsors are too important and return their money?
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a) Can you make their logo smaller such that your biggest sponsor is still more visible and still seen as the biggest sponsor?
b) Maybe put the blue logo (or big sponsor logo) on your sleeve for distinction
c) stick with the blue… Unless its going to cost you a rediculous amount more, you don’t want to reject money (especially if they’re such a seemingly large contributor) because of something like team branding (that being said, I tottally get that its important… My team is branded up the wazoo, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Some teams would kill for that money- so don’t be picky).

Ask again about the negotiability of the “top and blue” requirement. Make certain that the person authorizing the payment understands that you have conflicting requirements (top billing goes to top sponsor, shirt is one color printing only). If they will not relax the color requirement, ask for a little extra money specifically to pay for the extra shirt printing cost. If they will not relax the topmost position requirement, ask your larger sponsor if they have any objection to being “demoted” on the shirt.

Can you ask them to fund the extra cost of printing multicolor T-shirts?

You will need to identify a calm, cool, representative of the team to negotiate with the sponsor and carefully and calmly explain a few things.

a) Your team identity belongs to the team, not to a sponsor.

b) an example of signage: http://kellrobotics.org/files/Billboard.pdf The partners and sponsors are placed in the ‘whitespace’ and are listed horizontally. Placing on whitespace is a way to deal with corporate color issues. However it doesn’t solve your tee shirt problem.

c) Many companies have a monochromatic version of their logo which would work on a shirt like yours, but it sound’s like they don’t have one.

d) The fundamental mission of FIRST and your team is to promote the mission of cultural change regarding STEM. It is NOT an advertising forum for a company, NOT a trade show, NOT a place to hand out corporate brochures or advertising, at least not directly without other consideration.

e) If they are fully bought into these concepts and are partnered with your team as a culture changer, then there shouldn’t be any problem with them making reasonable adjustments. Otherwise I’d consider returning the money and finding a more appropriate ‘partner’. Note I didn’t say sponsor, but partner, there is a difference. They would have to be a VERY heavy hitter in order to make these demands, 15% doesn’t cut it in IMHO.

This is a tough one.
The question is whether they are donating to help your team or paying for advertising.

As a team you need to make this decision.
You may also need to try and talk to someone else at this company. How did you make the original contact with them?

I would be very surprised if, after hearing your story, the CEO or president of this company didn’t relax the rules…

If not you do have to make a decision. What is more important your colors or getting the money?

Do you risk losing your major sponsor?

This is really a great opportunity for learning for your team.

I have been around teams, that, in the past required a logo change or a team name change but only if they were the Major sponsor…

I wish you luck in this problem…

Most corporations designate B&W versions of their colored trademarks and their proper use - for instance, as in the FIRST Branding and Logos Guide:


It could be that you have asked the wrong person at the company what their particular branding policy is. Or it’s a small company who hasn’t really thought out the issues.

I would find a calm cool team member or mentor to meet with the sponsor and go over the issues.

Without going into why or how they achieved this understanding, my sense is they don’t understand or buy into what FIRST is.

A) The sponsor needs to understand that FIRST and presumably your team is about change the culture about STEM education.

B) There is a difference between ‘sponsor’ and ‘partner’ and hopefully we are grooming a partner in STEM education. It isn’t a marketing sponsorship, they cannot use the event as a trade show, or hand out product brochures, etc. 1st and foremost this is a culture changing STEM education activity.

C) They are NOT the only sponsor/partner, NOR the title sponsor/partner, and do not dictate the marketing style guide for the team.

D) Maintaining a team identity is very important to the team, as is the corporate identity to your sponsor/partners.

E) It doesn’t help the tee shirt problem but the use of whitespace on graphic displays can solve some problems. We have a big sign that uses whitespace to hold the sponsor/partner logos, as shown here: http://kellrobotics.org/files/Billboard.pdf

F) It they cannot be moved on the issue, personally I’d vote to return the money and to find a more appropriate partner.

G) When you go looking for new partners make sure they they understand the team mission and how this is truly a partnership.