Under attack logo disappears

Under Armour says it will replace paint with grass

April 05, 2010|By Andrea K. Walker | andrea.walker@baltsun.com

An Under Armour logo painted on the hillside of Federal Hill Park is being removed just days after riling some residents, who found it to be a tacky, and possibly illegal, form of free advertising.

On Sunday afternoon, the logo was covered up with a dark square and was expected to be completely removed today, said spokeswoman Diane Pelkey. The Baltimore-based sports apparel company will then plant grass seed on the spot.

The logo, with company motto "Protect This House" stenciled underneath, was put up to welcome players in town for the Northeast Qualifier of the East Coast Volleyball tournament at the Baltimore Convention Center, Pelkey said. The tournament ended Sunday.

"We always remove the logo or signage after an event," Pelkey said. "This was always meant to be in conjunction with the volleyball tournament that is going on this weekend."

Under Armour had originally put in a request with the Department of Recreation and Parks to have a two-week window to display the logo, according to a department spokeswoman, but Pelkey said the intention was always to remove it before that.

Still, the negative response by some in the community seems to have affected the timetable for removing the display.

"At this stage in the game the billboards and signs around town are not really about advertising locally for us as a company, but more about helping to roll out a big welcome to all athletes coming into the city," said Steve Battista, senior vice president of brand. "In that spirit, if some of our neighbors don't support it, we'll certainly take it down early."

The logo, which was put up with water-based paint, upset some in the Federal Hill neighborhood who said it was an eyesore.

Paul W. Robinson, president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association, said he watched from his Inner Harbor office as the logo was being painted last Thursday evening and immediately began to question why it was there. When he got home, Robinson said he had nearly 50 messages from people complaining about the logo.

He said he later got calls from about the same number of "loyal Under Armour customers" who saw nothing wrong with the sign.

Robinson said he has nothing against Under Armour, but that its logo didn't belong in a public park.

"The Under Armour logo is terrific and everybody wears it as a sense of pride," Robinson said. "But this wasn't about welcoming anybody. This was a branding vehicle. Do I have a problem with the design? Not if it's on a shirt in my closet. I don't think it was appropriate on the side of Federal Hill."

He pointed to 2007 legislation that makes it illegal to put up advertisements in areas designated as open spaces, which includes public parks.

"The sign itself was disrespectful of the law," Robinson said. "If people lack respect for the law and you start selectively enforcing the law then everybody is going to look to be treated the same way."

Under Armour put up the logo with the city's permission and worked with Recreation and Parks, Pelkey and city officials said. The city was not paid.

Michelle Speaks-March, a spokeswoman for the parks department, said Sunday that she didn't know of any ordinance that would have prohibited the logo. She noted that the Ravens logo has been displayed on the same hill.

Pelkey said it is not unusual for Under Armour to prominently display its logo around the city in conjunction with major events - such as the Baltimore Running Festival. She said the company has displayed signs on the hill before, though not painted on the grass.

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