In the digital and globalised era, sports fans have developed a transient loyalty to clubs, associations and players through visual brand identity.

 

How?

Brands and athletes have never been easier to reach and engage with. Everyone is producing and sharing content. Fans and sports lovers alike want in.

Instagram’s Head of Sports, Dev Sethi shared this insight. Of the 400 million followers of sport on Instagram, the Instagram sports fan will follow up to (on average) ten different sports-related accounts. Going deeper, of these ten accounts, up to three (on average) are accounts from different countries.

In 2020 societal views and what we will not tolerate has been accelerated. Society’s views of yesteryear are not accepted. Brands with outdated identities can no longer remain the same.

Therefore, as sports fans become increasingly transient and societal values change.

Two challenges emerge for sports properties and their visual brand identity.

  • To stand out –  Cut through the clutter and be digitally friendly
  • To remain relevant – The brand, through design must demonstrate local + societal values

Fan’s demonstrate the love for their club or preferred teams through secondary actions online. Brands digital artwork needs to be clear, simplified and identifiable. Simplified doesn’t mean boring. A well-executed simplified visual identity today allows flexibility. Example, the Premier League’s refresh in 2016.

Visual identity must work in various social formats, be readable and understood by those scrolling. The crest no longer fit solely for the shirt, stadium or merchandise.

Over the past months, team and clubs from all levels have rebranded or updated their crests. A new crest during a time where we have lacked sports content has provided the perfect opportunity for a sports team to tell their story. The time-out in sport has enabled a stronger focus on visual identity to take place.

 

Let’s take a look at a few examples…

Logo relaunch: RB Leipzig

 

The simplification of the logo will improve its visibility on screens. Tiny details make a big impact.

Rangers FC completed a similar logo relaunch. The design is easier to place onto the jersey and appears sharper within the digital sphere.

 

New crest: Football Association of Iceland

The video went viral within the sports community. Almost cinematic, the video tells a real story as to how the crest came to be. Inspired by the history and Icelandic symbolism the incredible crest design allows different components of the crest to stand alone. Storytelling has become a huge part of new crest releases. It pales in comparison to the content and attempted crest relaunch by Leeds United in 2018…

In English football, fifth-tier football club, Eastleigh FC released their new crest. Founded in 1946 (relatively young for a British club), the crest is inspired by the club’s unique history and nickname, The Spitfires. Beautifully done, Eastleigh delivered as they enter a new era.

 

New franchise: Racing Louisville FC (NWSL)

The latest team to join the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States, Racing Louisville FC recently launched their identity. They will be the 10th NWSL franchise and they will join the league in 2021. The video, albeit different to Iceland’s, strongly conveys what inspired and what the rationale to the design is. With the colour scheme, I cannot wait to see the kits.

Lastly, and most recent – the new NHL franchise, the Seattle Kraken.  The launch demonstrated how much thought, time and decision making must be completed to truly pull off a class-act in franchise launching. Over the weekend, Kraken merchandise was the hottest product on Fanatics.

I highly recommend the thread below by Avish.

https://twitter.com/AvishSood/status/1286436663321866247?s=20

For teams like Washington in the NFL, their rebranding process will take time. It cannot be expected they turn a new brand around in a matter of months. In respect to their visual brand identity, this is an opportunity to restart. A clean slate.

 

Final Thoughts

I noticed a particular irony, especially within the US market. US market franchises have the capability to move geographically. But as seen in recent announcements, such visual identities and stories really tie themselves to a certain place and location. Will this hinder franchise moves in the future?

To remain relevant is of priority. A brand is an investment and it needs to almost be timeless. Rebrands are expensive, therefore they should only be refreshed once they look tired. Not when it doesn’t align with societal values and views. It is then too late.