Stealing Logos

My wife noticed it right away. There it sat. Right near the front door of a church we visited. A bright yellow brochure with the big heading “Just Try It” positioned above…the trademarked Nike logo. Like a scene from a church-communications action film where a bomb was armed to blow, we looked at each other wide-eyed, mouths open as we shook our heads in slow motion—all the while silently yelling, “Noooooo!”

Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic. Our reaction was probably more of just subdued frustration. Inside, though, I did feel that dramatic, animated anger.

The brochure in question was an attempt to get people to serve as volunteers in the church. The phrase “Just Try It” isn’t bad, but adding the Nike swoosh made it a mess for several reasons.

  • It’s illegal. The Nike swoosh is a trademark. It’s protected. And the church isn’t in the parody business, so they shouldn’t use it. Legally, they could be sued for doing it. Is Nike ever going to know this happened? Probably not. But stealing is not a Christian ideal. So, why do it?
  • It’s lazy. Taking a popular brand and plopping it on your own materials doesn’t take much effort. God created you to be more creative than that. Use those talents to create something more original, more focused and more appealing.
  • There’s nothing to gain from doing it. Sure, using the Nike swoosh, the Apple logo or any other easily recognizable symbol may get someone’s attention. But as soon as they see the content has nothing to do with the logo, their interest will likely go away. You’ve lost an opportunity to communicate with someone and you’ve hurt your chances of reaching them in the future because they can’t always trust what they’re seeing. Plus, in this example, using the swoosh doesn’t make sense. Volunteering won’t make you run faster or be a better athlete. Not even if you’re chasing kids all morning in the Children’s area.

I’m not sure why the church became a place where it was fun to use and abuse corporate logos in the name of ministry. In fact, twisting corporate logos into some Christian message (like Subway to HisWay) is a multi-billion dollar industry. Whether you’re making t-shirts or a simple non-for-profit brochure, I’m pleading with you to stop. Just stop. Use the creative mind God gave you instead of copying something pop culture says is cool.

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