How sports league branding has evolved over time through their brand identity
“A sports team has potential to create and nourish its brand equity, amplifying the emotional connection that it shares with its fans, with the goal of reinforcing fan loyalty” (Richelieu, 2012, p, 15). The sports sector as a whole is an ever-changing energetic sector that always wants to lead the way in fresh original branding with emotionally charged and interactive identities that work with supporters and communities within the game for a better and more rounded society in sport. The way we experience sport has changed. Gone are the times where sports matches were a one day event, now sports teams and leagues try to build that consistent experience that engages the fans in new features such as Fantasy leagues and Fan boosts in Formula E. This sector is creating the opportunity for fans to engage and interact with their team and make them feel a part of the clubs ever changing history.
The sports sector builds upon the rich history of the club that has an emotional impact with its supporters. By knowing their target audience and using the correct tools to engage with their supporters clubs are creating content that people can identify with and bring them closer to the club. As a graphic designer it is a powerful thing to achieve because it takes a lot of effort to get the attention while you respect them as part of the club.
The timing of the content you produce and the impact it has on your target audience is critical. Through a solid brand like The Premier League they are able to oﬀer a brand that fans can connect with and help rally behind in terms of supporting the league through social media while building upon the heritage that has been built upon with its supporters. The values of a club all relate to that sense of building a stronger and better club identity that embodies the history and commitment that has been put in place between the club and supporters over time.
In sport the building blocks of a strong brand identity is forged through the connection and interactivity built through the branding. The sense of a community coming together from all the different leagues is what makes sports league branding inclusive for all. Leagues are always pushing to find ways of interacting with supporters, whether that’s through social media or through brand attractions such as the Football Fantasy League, brands such as the Premier League are defining the future of sports advertising and branding as a whole with content that is timed to suit the ever changing market. For example, with sports leagues they are building their popularity and exposure to new sponsors and supporters with an attractive brand identity that shows similarities to the stylish gaming style appearance seem across games such as Fifa 21 thus connecting with fans on a similar yet modern and futuristic style (See Fig 1.)
Over time sport in general has quickly evolved to suit the new modern age of branding and advertising. For example the sports sector studies its audience to see how a fan can interact and relate with their club while understanding their traits such as age, location and interests. Understanding their audience is extremely important because this offers the opportunity to learn from their supporters and in time grow into a more established brand that puts their supporters at the heart of their identity. Gone are the days of a match day experience revolving around food and entertainment. I have found that sport leagues have adapted to making that match day experience as real as possible with a fresh experience that involves building your own fantasy teams to utilising the e-sports market. Keeping your trusted followers and pushing for new support is key so like today you are unable to get that definite match day experience. However, BT Sport allows supporters to watch together through the app building upon that experience evolution (See Fig 2).
In the Formula E Championship supporters of the sport can get involved with the race itself by being offered the chance to vote for their favourite driver and give them an electric boost during the race impacting the overall result (See Fig 3 and 4). The way we experience sports continue to change and with interactivity like this it shows how much we are made to feel apart of this amazing yet inclusive sector.
Understanding the sector is key from what your audience are interested in to the content you produce, you need to know each sport inside out. For example in football you need to explore every angle of the game with content across the game that is engaging and immersive experiences for your audience. Predicting possible changes and trends that occur and build upon the already established brand is critical. Looking into the future there are changes that could occur in terms possible virtual reality features that could push the way sports and their clubs work and communicate as a brand. However as target audiences change and evolve the loyalty and trust that has been in place will remain if the history and legacy of the sport is built upon further and pushed in exciting new directions.
As a platform social media opens doors to future support and sponsorship because it is the place to boost the brand exposure and user engagement. Social media can be the driving force behind interaction with supporters and clients while boosting your brand loyalty by building upon these relationships.
In 2016, the Premier League was able to construct a fresh identity that would make them appeal to the changing sports world with an eye-catching rebrand that gave the supporters of the league something to engage with and feel an emotional connection with. As quoted by DesignStudio founder Paul Stafford "The overarching goal was to achieve a huge cultural shift for the Premier League, and address the misconceptions surrounding the organisation.” As a brand the Premier League felt that opinions of the game were positive yet as a brand it was perceived as negative due to outdated identity in place. The reason the rebrand was put in place was because the Premier League wanted to move away from the title sponsor Barclays that was promoted as the Barclays Premier League since the 2007/08 season. Researching further I found that the Premier League understands its audience with a rich colour palette that offers the chance to shift the perceptions of the brand.
In sports branding there is always the risk that you are destroying a strong brand that has already been established. While there is always the chance that the brand might change and not be as inclusive and interactive with the supporters and communities like beforehand. However, I believe that it is important that before making decisions about the look and feel of the brand it's crucial that they understand why you are making this next step. By knowing your target audience and timing your content brands such as Formula 1 can begin to develop a marketing plan with a futuristic branding style that offers fresh opportunities for interactivity and making the fans feel apart of this new era for the brand.
With DesignStudio the Premier League was rebranded in 2016. The identity features a new logo and logo system that can be adapted in different scenarios while reaching a wider audience. With the logo notice that the colour scheme and general personality of the brand (See Fig 5) has taken inspiration from the video game styling from Fifa games (See Fig 6). The reason the arena of computer games has become the main focus within sports branding is due to the overall success it has towards the younger demographic and its success to reinvent itself upon each year. The ever changing use of geometric shapes and vibrant colours has an appeal to young and modern supporters of the game, while it is also a strong visual approach that makes an instant connection while still capturing that FIFA atheistic that we know and love.
Both the Formula 1 and Formula E championships produced a visually impactful logo, typeface and identity that needed to be the start of a new era while pushing the sport as a global media and entertainment brand (See Fig 7 and 8).
Produced by Wieden and Kennedy the Formula 1 brand offers an extensive redesign that was covered by more than 1,500 media outlets. From the rebrand Widen and Kennedy understood the screen space and area that they had to work with across a variety of media. Graphically speaking the logo is very memorable and has a big impact that is progressive and that can be related to the Inter Milan logo rebrand that took place in 2021. Both the Formula 1 and Inter Milan brands have constructed an engaging and attractive logo design that ingrates the rich heritage of the club/championship while understanding their own values of community and togetherness with a design that works across media such as merchandise and advertising (See Fig 9).
Utilising social media, creating engaging content that is well timed strengthens the bond between the brand and the supporter. I found that the most successful brands know their audience including their age and interests and know what it wants to be perceived as in the long term. Brands such as The Hundred (See Fig 10) have put in place a brand that is fresh, exciting to the core and tries to reinvigorate the cricket brand for a whole new audience. With both The Hundred and Formula 1 they have made the point of understanding the rich history of motor racing and cricket as a whole and push the brand in a new direction that still puts its supporters and the community at the very forefront.
Described as a “modern-retro feel” logo design the Formula 1 logo is designed to work across a range of different platforms. For example, through the Formula 1 website (See Fig 11) the logo works well with fresh content such as video highlights and interviews uploaded that strengthens that interaction between the championship and supporters. In comparison to Formula 1 I found the Premiership Rugby branding lacks a cohesive brand with a very dull colour palette that results in minimal impact and interaction (See Fig 12).
From the research I found that Rugby was voted the 3rd favourite sport behind Football and Cricket. From my perspective as a fan and supporter of Premiership Rugby I can analyse that the Premiership is struggling in terms of a desired result and interaction from marketing. For example with the Premiership I think that the connection between supporters and the league is below the standard set by the Premier League who has built a strong sense of community within football and the clubs in the league, something which the Premiership needs to improve on. The world of sports branding is changing and evolving towards this modern futuristic style and I feel that the Premiership is lagging behind which in time impacts on the game as a whole with fewer followers and sponsorships.
Having explored the Premiership I decided to rebrand Premiership Rugby with a more attractive logo (See Fig 13 & 14) and colour palette with a strong user friendly website design that is miles better than the branding in place at this current time thus matching the likes of The Hundred, Formula 1 and The Premier League with a brand identity that connects with its supporters and leads the way in the rugby world with other leagues (See Fig 15).
Since producing graphic design content for Northampton Saints back in 2017 I have realised that my interests and goals lie within the sports industry. As a sector this industry creates the opportunity to build a connection with fans on an emotional level. This sector is rewarding because the whole brand is built with the fans, players and staff working together to achieve greatness and be part of the clubs rich heritage.
I know that in time I want to progress and grow as a graphic designer. So my goal is to work at the very top of the sports sector. Whether that’s working for England Rugby or Manchester United I know that I have the desire and passion to reach the very top. I know that from my research the sports sector is your chance to invest time in something that I love and so do many of the supporters. This sector is a great opportunity to interact with the club and fans and when speaking to designers at Red Bull Racing and Manchester City they advise me that your love and desire as well as experience is everything to success within this industry.
Across this assignment I have found in this sector you need to understand the history that is in place with your club/league and the sport itself. Brands such as the Premier League strive to build a strong sense of community that puts the supporters and their target audience at the very top of what they stand for as a brand.
By maintaining the brand ethos and knowing the club/league inside I will be able to begin to understand the sector as a whole. Knowing what your audience is from their age to their interests will help keep the club one step ahead while making sure the loyalty and trust built up is strengthened over time.