From Paris to the Everglades, Lacoste Protects Logo

French company first to connect its animal logo to the real animal

It's the hissing and thrashing that give you chills.

When the six-foot-long alligator gets mad that a couple of researchers have dragged it out of the swamp and into their airboat, upset that they've taped its snout closed, that's when you're absolutely certain this primeval beast would snap your arm off in a heartbeat if it could.

"This animal definitely looks healthy, " says Dr. Frank Mazzotti of the University of Florida. He and his team measure, weigh, tag, and generally inspect the alligator before recording the data and releasing it back into the waters.

It's part of the team's ongoing research into Everglades alligators and their cousins, the much more scarce and formerly endangered American crocodiles. They're both indicator species, which means if their populations are healthy, chances are the Everglades itself is healthy.

"As we are embarking on what's the world's largest ecosystem restoraton project," Mazzotti says, refering to the massive state and federal effort to restore the badly damaged Everglades, "alligators can tell us whether or not we're succeeding and whether or not it's a wise investment."

Valuable research, but it costs money. That's where Olivier Chiabodo's grand idea comes into play: why don't we get companies that have animals in their corporate logos to sponsor research into those animals?

"We just begin one year ago, and Lacoste was the first company that decided to come with us," says Chiabodo, the founder of Save Your Logo,a non-profit, all-volunteer foundation based in Paris.

Lacoste is the French company famous for its polo shirts sporting the crocodile logo. On one recent night, Chiabodo was out in the Everglades with Mazzotti's team, getting a first-hand look at the work that Lacoste is sponsoring. 

The company is giving the University of Florida's crocodilian research program $150,000, which Mazzotti's team will use to attach satellite transmitters to gators and crocs, something they've never had the money to do before.

"That will give us even more information on how they're responding to ecosystem restoration," Mazzotti said. "With all the talk that there is from top to bottom of decreases in government spending, finding private sources of money is incredibly important to us."

What does Lacoste get out of this, besides good public relations? Chiabodo says companies should think of research partnerships as an investment in their own symbols.

"If there is no more crocodiles around the world, they have no more brand, so they need to take care about this, but it is the same with many companies, Ferrari for the wild horses, Puma, MSN for the butterfly, there is a lot around the world," Chiabodo says.

Save Your Logos'  next partner may be French automaker Peugeot, which uses a lion in its logo. But Chiabodo's already thinking beyond the corporate world. He's planning to reach out to college and professional sports teams, asking them to pitch in to save their mascots.

The Gators are already on board. How about Dolphins, Panthers, and Marlins?

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