My Branding Recap for the First Half of January

What a very interesting start to the new year, especially in the Sports Marketing field!

As I hope to begin blogging on a more consistent basis, I thought something I can start with would be a weekly recap of some of the advertising stories that I was very interested in. I’ll obviously still be writing more in-depth posts in-between, but why not get started with something a bit easier for other visitors to read.

So here we go… here are my favorite stories of this past week:

  1. Across the Pond

– A very interesting read came out of the UK last week that will affect the biggest sport in their country, as well as my Saturday mornings. It was already announced that Barclays would not be renewing their sponsorship of the English Premier League after this season and the EPL would not be looking for a replacement sponsor.

– Because of this loss of sponsorship, the Premier League will rename itself as the “English Football League” and will rebrand the league’s identity. As of last week, the league has not reached out to any agencies to assist in the rebrand. However, they have said that the agencies will be instructed to remove the Lion that has been featured in the logo since its inception in 1992.

– With the MLS rebranding its league look this past year and many more soccer franchises across the world doing the same thing, I am very interested to see what the brand new “EFL” brand will look like on the sleeves of the team uniforms in ’16-’17.

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– In addition to the EPL rebranding, league juggernaut Manchester City is going back to its roots for a rebrand that the team’s supporters have been calling for since their current logo debuted in 1997. At the time Manchester City was going through a heavy decline, dropping all the way to the third tier of England’s soccer leagues! The team needed a refresh in order to draw their fans into the stadium (and a logo that could claim as a trademark) and support the squad, which is why the fierce eagle was introduced.

– Now that Manchester City has been firmly re-established as a dominant player in the Premier League, and in Europe, fans wanted the removal of the eagle that had been criticized for not being a part of the City of Manchester’s history. In fact, for every major cup final the team has played since the eagle’s introduction with a badge that bears the badge of arms for the City of Manchester!

– So, for a summer of 2016 introduction, the team debuted an updated version of the team’s previous crest, complete with a more detailed version of the ship and rose that became synonymous with the club in their early Premier League days. Modern updates to logos/crests of the past has become a very popular trend for sports franchises, so it does not surprise me that City has come up with this decision. I approve of this logo update, but hopefully they won’t be updating their baby blue home kits in ’16.

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  1. Deadpool… Such a smartass 😉

– I have become fascinated with the campaigns that blockbuster movies utilize, from the debut teaser trailers to the final movie poster and social media posts the day before the premiere date. None has been more interesting in the last couple of months than Deadpool, the latest Marvel superhero movie from 20th Century Fox (well, maybe Star Wars… stay tuned). 20th Century Fox needs a successful superhero flick after their 2015 tentpole, Fantastic Four, was one of the a major flops of the year. So naturally, the studio is putting all of its focus on Deadpool to start 2016.

– However, Deadpool is not exactly the most marketable superhero to the public. Let’s face it, most Deadpool fans are Men ages 15-35… That is about it! But the character of Wade Wilson is an arrogant, fourth-wall breaking smartass who would try to sell this movie in any way possible.

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– 20th Century Fox has seemed to embrace that, based on the ads that were featured last week… Hey guys, want a way to convince your significant other to see this movie over Valentine’s Day Weekend? Show her this minute-long trailer and accompanying billboard. What better way to show your girlfriend a romantic V-Day weekend then by a romantic movie staring Ryan Reynolds as a guy fighting for his life with the woman he loves… 😉

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– The second is a billboard that is featured across Los Angeles that tries to reach the millennials who are obsessed with using emojis in their messages. In this day-in-age, I guarantee you Deadpool would find it very amusing to call himself “skull face, poo smile, L”.

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  1. Toronto Maple Leafs Brand “Refining”

– Sportslogos.net is one of my favorite websites and I visit it multiple times during the week. Chris Creamer is a uniform news/critic out of Canada, so some of his best stories refer to possible uniform updates for Canada’s professional franchises. He was able to break the story of the Toronto Raptors rebrand that went into effect this season. Now it seems that he has done it again.

– A month ago, Creamer announced that the Toronto Maple Leafs would be getting a new logo for the ’16 – ’17 season, with little hints of the new branding being “leaked” in the last month. Some of the “potential” aspects that have leaked so far includes a solid blue/white maple leaf and the team being called “Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club”.

– Last week, the “club” announced a new line of hats and apparel that features the solid leaf and the old Toronto Maple Leafs wordmark and script. Not only that, but quite a bit of the apparel features a solid silver leaf, which has me wondering whether this new brand will introduce a new color into the club’s color pallet. I believe a silver/gray jersey featuring a blue leaf or blue team wordmark could be a very interesting addition to the team’s history.

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– Now is the time to do it for this team! They are currently in the largest Stanley Cup drought of any Original Six franchise in the National Hockey League and are beginning a new era under coach Mike Babcock. This struggling franchise needs something to bring up their spirits and draw their rabid fan base back to the arena. What better way than an update to a brand that has not won a Stanley Cup since the primary leaf was updated to reflect the Canadian flag’s leaf!

  1. NFL in Los Angeles – One or Two?

– So, now we know that next season, the NFL will have a franchise in Los Angeles as the St. Louis Rams officially moved to the city last week. Now already rebranded as the Los Angeles Rams, the team will spend the next three years at the LA Coliseum while their new $1.8 Billion stadium is built in Inglewood. The San Diego Chargers have an option to join them as a tenant in their new stadium and have until January 2017 to decide whether to go. We have yet to hear whether they will move forward with that move.

– In the meantime, one of the common questions presented to Ram executives in the past week was whether the Rams would be returning to their old color scheme with the move back to LA. As you notice in the following tweet screenshot, the Rams are telling reporters that there are plans in place to update the Rams uniforms for the 2019 season. This is the season the Rams will be debuting in their new Inglewood stadium, so it makes sense for this significant point in the franchise’s history for the Rams new look to debut.

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– The question is whether the original colors of gold and navy blue will be returning to the field in this rebrand? Kevin Demoff, the Rams Executive VP of Football Operations has made it known that the prior colors are being considered. The cries for gold and navy blue had grown over the past couple years in St. Louis during the couple games the Rams were break out those colors and it seems that LA fans were wanting a return as well. However, these weren’t the only old colors that the Rams have used in the past, leaving Demoff’s comments a bit open to interpretation.

– Before gold was a primary color, white was featured in its place as the color of the jerseys and the ram horns on the team’s helmets from 1965 – 1972. In fact, in 1949 their primary color on the helmet was red, paired with the yellow ram horns. This was removed after just the single season, but I tend to believe that this was done to take advantage of USC’s popularity at the time.

– Please refer to the Paul Lukas article on ESPN for a more in-depth analysis of their uniform history.

– So by the looks of it, the Rams will not be changing aesthetically for their upcoming seasons in the Coliseum. I look forward to reading more about the re-debut of the LA Rams brand, whose script and wordmark logos have already been updated with their new home.

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  1. More Soccer for Los Angeles

– So, why is there a story higher on my list then an NFL franchise moving to a new home? Because LA debuted another new sports franchise last week that peaked my interest.

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– The Los Angeles Football Club, rising from the ashes of the failed Chivas USA MLS franchise, debuted its new badge, colors and apparel that will begin its games in 2018. Gold and Black, two strong, impressive colors that compose the LAFC brand, begins the marketing campaign for a franchise that needs to make its mark in a city that seems to be growing every day in sports competition.

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– The celebrity-laden ownership group grew even more on the announcement day with the addition of Will Ferrell as a part-owner, bringing in another noteworthy name to compete in the ever-growing LA sports landscape (see point two).

– The notes from crest designer Matthew Wolff state that the logo concept started with a simple drawing at a bus stop, which evolved into the current iteration. He explains that everything about the new branding, from the crest’s shape, color palette and unique typeface, tie back to city of LA.

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– When compared to the Los Angeles Galaxy, anyone associated with LAFC focused on making this franchise the city’s soccer team, versus the surrounding suburbs. Wolff states on his website that “the shape of the shield is derived from the Seal of the City of Los Angeles. The black and gold color scheme reflects the success, urban texture and glamour of Los Angeles.

– Wolff continues, “The wordmark is set in Neutraface, a nod to downtown Los Angeles’ rich collection of Art Deco buildings dating back to city expansion in the 1920s. At the heart of the crest is a wing, paying homage to the City of Angels and the city’s Aztec and Mexican heritage.”

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– Now that the team’s identity is out into the market, LAFC now have a couple years to build a following in LA market. Their new stadium, which will be built and ready for the 2018 season opener, will be right next to the LA Coliseum in the heart of the city. With this prominent location secured, the next step will be for the team to make a big splash whether through their manager or first big player signing.

– The latest franchises in the MLS, Orlando City SC and New York City FC, were able to sign European stars Kaka, Frank Lampard and David Villa to name a few. With the rival Galaxy signing Steven Gerrard, the bright lights of LA will be a big draw for some stars, if the owners are willing to shell out the money to make an impact to compete for interest.

– I believe LAFC will need a prominent player signing before their team debut in order to make even a small impact in the LA market. A market that could at that point include two NFL, two NBA, two MLB, a rival MLS and champion NHL franchises to compete for fans and attendees. Hopefully, this new team can follow the growth of the MLS in this country and make a significant mark in the City of Angels.

 

What do you think? And this is only in the first two weeks of the year! One can only imagine what is to come, especially if we get a second NFL franchise in Los Angeles. We shall see…

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Ball State’s “Necessary” Neu Era

For my first blog post of the new year, my first thought was to talk about the record-breaking amount that Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens took in during its opening weekend. $248 Million was pulled in thanks to Nostalgia, JJ Abrams and its Marketing. However, that will come another time…

Something very interesting happened over the holidays at the school that I called home for four years, as Ball State’s football coach Pete Lembo, only two years into a five-year extension he signed after the ’13 season, resigned to become an Assistant Head Coach/Special Team Coordinator at Maryland. A very curious move indeed, as it was only two years ago that Lembo was in line to take over a Power 5 program is he wanted after bringing Ball State multiple over .500 seasons. Lembo was rewarded for his loyalty with the aforementioned extension, but after two subpar years (5-7 and 3-9) he decided that the time was now to make a move.

Saying no to a Power 5 program in favor of an extension is one thing, but leaving a D1 Head Coaching position for an Assistantship at a program that looks like has regressed since moving to the Big Ten. Let alone to become a Special Teams Coordinator? There is always the family circumstance that is often a behind the scenes factor in these decisions and it appears to have played a part. However, a move like this seems like such a risk, especially when there is a possibility that Lembo could secure a position like this if he was fired before his extension runs out.

So what does this move mean? Is there further backstory here? Bruce Feldman’s article on FOX Sports indicates that Lembo was finally frustrated enough with the lack of Athletics Resources that the university provides (or doesn’t), that he decided to left. To me, this seems like an indication that the Ball State program is in trouble. What Power 5 assistant coach would be willing to come to a program when the HC leaves to take a Power 5 assistant job themselves? The Department, Program and Cardinal Brand need a reinvention if for anything else to find a viable coaching candidate. Which is why I propose that Ball State reach out to one of its current resources to figure out… their expiring apparel contract.

Ball State’s contract with Nike expires on January 31st, 2016 and now is the time to use this negotiative tool to introduce a New Brand for the Ball State Cardinals. We are in the time where apparel companies Nike, adidas and Under Armour are competing with each other in order to make their mark and impact to the viewing public, showing that their apparel is the best. Universities can use these apparel contracts to create eye-catching uniforms and apparel that incoming recruits and players will want to wear and show off across the campus. You only need to look at examples like Boise State’s Nike Rebrand, adidas’s creative uniforms for Texas A&M and Louisville and Under Armour’s Shamrock Series options for Notre Dame.

During the past couple of seasons, Ball State Athletics have almost been trying to play catch up with the rest of the NCAA. They first introduced a black uniform option for most sports in 2013-14 (truly believe it was because BFBS) and after having their first alternate football helmet during the ’14 season (also black), the program introduced multiple helmet options for the first time. These helmets included options like camo and pink for Military Appreciation and Breast Cancer Awareness respectively, along with white and black helmet options with player numbers on one side of the helmets. While not bad looking, the helmet options seem to have come at a time where their rival programs, the rest of Division 1 for that matter, have already hat multiple helmet/uniform options for half-a-decade.

2016 will also come at a time of transition for Ball State University as a whole. A new president has come on to the Muncie campus and has already started an overall university rebrand, with removing the “Education Redefined” tagline from all promotional materials. Under President Ferguson, the university is still trying to find its identity, along with the football program. So, why not try and merge the re-branding efforts and work to unite the university, both athletics and academics, under a single, Cardinal banner?

We only need to look at what Boise State University did from 2010-2012 with Nike, where their re-branding not only provided their athletics programs with new, sleek uniforms and logos, but also designed new word marks, scripts and brand standards that the university can call their own. The incorporate of their new Boise State script, the new lead letter “B” design and the emphasis on the Bronco head has given Boise State a brand presence that has resonated note only with the Western U.S., but throughout the entire country.

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In order to define itself within the crowded Midwest and with bringing in a new head coach, Ball State needs a rebrand like this. What better way than by having the new apparel partners deliver a great new look for the Cardinals? As an alum of Ball State I have a few ideas for how this design can take place, since I am not creative enough to design this myself:

  • Alternate Logo/Wordmark
    • I believe that like Boise State before them, we need to incorporate a redesign of the Ball State “B” logo. Whether this means an adjustment to Ball State script/wordmark as a whole, the current “basic” B is way too plain, especially for a Division 1 athletic department. High Schools have more interesting “B” logos than Ball State’s.
    • Recently, Ball State Athletics removed the “movement lines” that have been a part of the Cardinal logo since 1990, when the Cardinal was redesigned from the previous, Arizona Cardinal version. These “lines” are unique to Ball State’s Cardinal, in fact unique compared to most bird logos in the NCAA. Re-inserting these lines into the newly designed “B” logo allows the university to maintain aspects of its previous branding into the updated look.
    • This new “B” can be very versatile in the fact that it can be used across all of the school’s sports, like on baseball caps, the collars for both football and basketball and a new badge/shield for soccer.
    • Whether this means a completely updated “Ball State” wordmark, I am not sure, but it is not something we should look past proposing…

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  • Helmet
    • One word, WINGS.
    • I know what you are thinking… This has been done before. I realize that! In fact, please see the list and images below:
      • South Carolina – Gamecock Tail Feathers
      • Miami of Ohio – Feather-textured Helmet
      • Eastern Michigan – Eagle Wing design on Back of Helmet
      • Rice – 2013 Bowl Game; 1990 Season (Eagles)
      • Oregon – We are all aware of Oregon from 2012-2014
    • I do not believe we need a full, redesigned Cardinal at this time, like in Louisville’s case from their season opener this year. A little too detailed than what is necessary in my opinion.

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  • Shoulder Pads
    • Again, I believe that WINGS that should be incorporated into the uniform. However, we should avoid repeating the Cardinal wings for this portion and focus more on the other important Ball State branding aspect, Beneficence.
    • The Beneficence statue has been a part of the Ball State advertising campaign ever since I can remember, appearing in everything from TV Spots, Business Cards, Email Signatures and practically anything in the Local Bookstore. Inexplicably, she has been left off any aspect of the athletics program, with not one jersey featuring some form of her.
    • This is the type of thing that is incorporating itself across uniforms around the country, with athletics honoring the campus as a whole. I like to think of Northwestern Football’s Gothic Uniforms and Duke Basketball’s Campus Gates as the main example of this.
    • I believe incorporating Beneficence’s wings into the jersey, whether a main or alternate, will bring out some campus pride. That way, students and alumni can call them out on TV and say “I know those! I know the [significance] of that.
    • Other universities have incorporated wings onto their shoulder pads as well, including:
      • Miami FL
      • Miami of Ohio (more feathers)
      • Florida Atlantic
      • Eastern Michigan (see above)
    • As a side idea, especially if we resign with Nike, incorporating the full Beneficence statue to the back of player uniforms (coming into focus when they sweat) would be a beautiful addition to those uniforms.

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Again, it bears repeating that I am not a designer or else I would have given this a try myself. However, as an alum of Ball State and a passionate Sports Marketing fan, I am a firm believer that if Ball State redefines itself as a brand they will become a consistent power in the Mid-American Conference. The new brand can draw in the recruits, for all sports, that wouldn’t necessarily consider becoming a Cardinal in the first place.

We now live in a time where it is not only about the academic prowess or the records of the teams themselves, but about capturing a look that entices potential recruits. These recruits/students want to be the face of the campus, known as they walk from class to class, with the goal of becoming BMOC.

Therefore, what I am asking is to see if any designers are willing come up with a concept for this potential redesign, with the football team’s branding and uniforms as the primary focus? I want to post these potential concepts on message boards like Sportlogos.net, BSU Athletics, Uni-Watch, etc… I want to see if my ideas

So what do you say? Let’s redefine what it means to be a Cardinal and a fan.

 

UPDATE: This was written before the hiring of Mike Neu as the new football head coach. They have already begun using the hashtag of #NeuEra, which is a great start for the athletic program. Now it is time to take the next step! A Ball State rebrand under this #NeuEra can be the beginning of bringing the team and university to the today of the MAC and its featured MACtion presentations on ESPN.