Earlier this week the Milwaukee Brewers announced the winner of their “Design a YOUniform” contest, a contest in which one lucky fan could see his very own uniform concept on the field for two Brewers’ Spring Training games this March.

After receiving over 500 entries from all over the United States, SportsLogos.Net reader Ben Peters from Minnesota was chosen as that one lucky fan, his design took the current Brewers colour scheme and paired it with retro elements to create a great looking uniform that I think many wouldn’t mind seeing the club use full-time one day in the future.

Milwaukee will wear this fan-designed uniform for two games this March

The Brewers had a great response from the fans for this contest but they were hardly the first ones to go this route – they weren’t even the first Major League club to do it – below we’ll take a look at the winners of various past fan-designed uniform contests held throughout sports.

The Chicago White Sox, the only other big league team to do this, were coming off several seasons of wearing collared, untucked jerseys with full-time dark blue pants (except for the odd time when they wore shorts) in 1981.  The players hated them, the new team ownership group hated them, it was a perfect time for a change… and in the true White Sox fashion (pardon the pun) of the times they went an unconventional route. A contest.

The six finalists in the White Sox contest in 1981, the winning design is second from the left

Over the few weeks that the club accepted entries, the White Sox received over 1,600 designs from fans mostly residing in the Chicago area.  They narrowed all the entries down to the top 6 and would parade the finalist designs onto the field in between innings where the fans could then fill out a ballot to choose the winner.  Looking back it’s hard to imagine that those designs were the six best but let’s keep in mind a couple of things… it was 1981 and it was the Chicago White Sox.

After all the votes were tallied the winning design belonged to Richard Launius, a 25-year-old graphic designer from Ohio, who took home a couple of season tickets for the ’82 season as well as an all-expenses paid trip to see the 1981 World Series. A slightly modified version of Launius’ design was worn by the Sox from 1982 through the end of 1987, a span which included a division championship and appearances by hall of famers Carlton Fisk and Tom Seaver.

Harold Baines and Addison Reed model the 1983 White Sox throwbacks the club will wear in 2013

The White Sox will be bringing this design back in 2013 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of that division championship, you can catch the team wearing Richard’s contest-winning design on the field for every Sunday home game this season.

Moving on from baseball, this past year the Atlanta Silverbacks of the re-born North American Soccer League held a contest to design the new team logo… and it couldn’t have been more complicated.

Atlanta Silverbacks new logo, courtesy a bizarre fan-design contest

As JR Francis described it:

renaming contestadding a name to the renaming contest, a fan logo submission contest, Facebook voting, announcing a Facebook winner, waiting, purchasing semifinalist logos, more voting, and waiting…  After almost 6 months of anguish all in the name of “fan participation,” the team ended up keeping their name, discarded their winning fan design, and have announced their new logo, another fan submitted design.

Yeah, sometimes these things aren’t as simple as they should be and usually clubs won’t enter their own designs as finalists up against fan designs in such a contest.  If you aren’t prepared to use what the fans are submitting don’t hold the contest, hire a real graphic design firm and do it the right way.

What a mess. Fortunately these contests rarely go this way.

Saskatoon Blades uniform design contest winner

In junior hockey, the Saskatoon Blades of the Western League held their own design contest at the end of 2012 where fans were asked to come up with a new one-game-only jersey for the club to wear on February 2nd.

Unlike the disaster that was the Silverbacks contest this one went very smoothly.  The team announced five finalists and then held a poll on their website.  The winning design finished far ahead of the other four netting winning designer Fabio Burà a team-autographed jersey and a couple of tickets to the game.

Elsewhere in junior hockey, the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario League turned to the fans to design their new third uniform.  They didn’t hold a fan vote to choose the winner but instead combined the uniform design of one entry with the logo of another entry, a good example of how a team can still get participation from the fans while ultimately having control over the final product.

The combined design, Sarnia mixed designs from two fans together for their new third jersey

Design contests are a great way to get fans to participate and feel a closer connection with their team, no doubt about it.  Now having said that, I feel these contests should be limited to special one-off jerseys, not for a full-time set. Why? Well, there are plenty of great professional designers out there, many of whom are independent, who would love to have that job.

Putting yourself in their shoes, try to imagine how frustrating it would be to sell your design services when there are others out there willing to submit designs for free via a contest.  This route essentially allows a team to save thousands of dollars paying a designer in exchange for giving away a jersey or a couple of tickets. Basically, the team is losing a couple hundred dollars tops for hundreds and hundreds of design options and eventually even more money in revenue from merchandise sales.

But that’s just my opinion, I mean I still enjoy following the contests and seeing what comes out of it.  These fan designs are getting better and better all the time…