Most agency designers and creators would kill to have an audience that actually cares about the details of their work.
Few obtain this privilege. And designers undertaking a rebranding or redesign for sports brands may end up regretting that desire, because no one cares about a new kit, badge or typographic element as much as a fan. always.
Unveiling a new sports brand can be a risky time for agencies. How can they anticipate a negative response? / Battery
So, given the potential for backlash from your target audience, how should agencies approach these sensitive issues?
How do you solve a problem like…designing for sports enthusiasts?
Rodney Abbot, Senior Partner, Design, Lippincott
Refreshing a brand identity is a complex and delicate operation at the best of times. Add a critical audience that loves the brand as it is, and the risk/reward ratio grows exponentially. The key to success is to eliminate all noise and focus on brand meaning. What is at the heart of brand expression that ignites such passion? If you go to the source and present it in a fresh way that respects the brand’s heritage, you’ll find acceptance, and maybe even love.
Guy Sexty, Artistic Director, Wunderman Thompson
Sports fans are rabid, obsessive and opinionated. They also rarely agree. Good luck finding two fans lined up for the starting line-up for Saturday’s game, not to mention any details on the final kit sleeve. You’re never going to please them all.
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So, instead of trying, designers should stick to a vision and create with the values of the club in mind. Immerse yourself in heritage and seek to incorporate classic details with a new twist. Give meaning to work. And just accept that some people will love it and some (hopefully a minority) won’t.
Cierra Moore, Chief Strategy Officer, Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners
To minimize the risk of sports fans rejecting new design elements, sports clubs should adopt a team spirit with their fan base when creating new design elements. Teams should solicit, value and implement fan design feedback. No team should alter the design (look and feel) without seeking input from their fan base.
Long after the whistle and the end of the season, it is the fan who continues to represent (and carry) the brand. Their beloved sports club is part of their personal identity.
Including fans in the evolution of the team’s identity is key to minimizing rejection and blowback from passionate fans.
Viv Greywoode, Head of Design, Stink Studios London
In my experience, fans are just as eager to see new visuals of their beloved clubs succeed and take off. Criticism comes when the creators haven’t listened or understood what the club, team and region mean to its supporters.
In sports, this means tapping into stakeholders, subscribers, players, fan forums and official groups as early as possible in the research phase, and accompanying them on the journey. One of the nice things about fans is that they usually have strong bullshit detectors and will let you know what they think. We should enjoy it to the fullest, not worry about it.
Tom Lindo, Chief Strategy Officer, FCB Inferno
The first job is always to tighten the briefs. We use a proprietary process called Definitive Design to codify, refine and evaluate all brand assets and perceived associations, from visual brands and patterns to typography and colors used. The process allows us to select design areas that we can evolve and identify elements to leave as is.
This gives the designers the confidence and clarity they need so that any redesign can be carried out with the respect the club and the fans deserve.
Sherine Kazim, Design Manager, Siberia
If you’re looking to design a product for someone as passionate as a sports fan, you need to get them in the game. Start with qualitative methods (one-to-ones, no focus groups, at least beginning), involve fans every step of the way, then validate with quant. It’s our surefire, human-centered way to co-create something they want, need and love as much as that old jersey they just can’t get off of.
Elliot Vredenburg, design director, Mother Design
People don’t like change. For this reason, it’s important to involve fans early in the process and treat them as stakeholders, just as important as owners and marketers. Sports team identities derive their meaning from two things: tradition and locality. This means sticking to the past as inspiration for the future and not getting caught up in widely accepted conventions or trends (see: Major League Soccer clubs in the United States are renamed to soccer). When it’s something you know, it’s always easier to say no than to say yes. What is hardest to dispute is history.
Liron Reznik, Executive Director of Strategy, Head of Consumer Strategy and Head of Brand Strategy, Frog Design
Designing for a passionate sports fan means designing an icon that draws deeply from authentic heritage while taking into account the new trifecta of macro forces that drive new brand development and design – new consumers (and new expectations they have), new technologies (disruptive, immersive and participatory) and new types of communities that thrive in the omniverse. To create a new design and experience system that evolves with the fandom, provide fans with an authentic way to “own” and feel a deeper sense of emotional ownership of the club.
Garrett Garcia, President, PPK
After five years as an AOR for a sports team in Tampa, PPK has plenty of first-hand experience. Any store or agency that tackles a professional sports club must first and foremost be a die-hard fan of the team. Period. Unless you create content from a real fandom place before anything else, you won’t be successful. Second, don’t over-design. Find ways to improve, improve and evolve, but always stay true to the club’s sacred badge(s) at all times. Finally, keeping up with fashion trends, especially color palettes and patterns, helps add instant interest to otherwise traditional team designs.
Simon Kearney, Director of Strategy and Ideas, Wolff Olins
This is reminiscent of the challenge we faced when creating the logo for London 2012, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Then we knew it had to be about participation.
It’s crucial to involve fans every step of the way, but beyond that, start by digging into their story. Have they traditionally been favorites or underdogs? What style of play are they known for? Which players or stories have come to define the franchise and how are they remembered? Browse the archives to see how color and iconography played a role in this story.
These are the tenets fans hold most dear – the unique moments, milestones, and stories that make their team’s journey (and any good expression of it) unique and meaningful.
Will Thacker, Executive Creative Director, 20something
We took on that challenge when we were tasked with revealing Chelsea’s 2021/2022 home kit. We had to inject new energy, tone and edge into the club’s long-standing creative platform It’s A Chelsea Thing, while taking into account the brand’s heritage and not excluding long-time fans. date.
We presented the kit in a new way, taking iconic historical moments and updating them with a fresh twist. We layered that with Easter eggs that only true fans would notice, and spent so much time digging into the culture and looking for interesting crossovers with fashion, music, and lifestyle to create a richer experience for new and old fans. You need to understand where they are, their mindset and deepen their culture. They’ll spot inauthenticity a mile away and have absolutely no hesitation in destroying you in the comments.
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