Kiss the badge

For some (not us, we hasten to add) one client opinion is enough. So how about a football stadium full of them? We look at what happens when graphic design and football collide. Straight red? Or let off with a yellow? You be the ref… In the news this week was the reveal of Everton FC’s new club crest. Nothing particularly newsworthy in that, you might think, but actually the story behind the design and development of it is quite interesting.

You can go online and search for the full story, but the crux of it is this. Everton launched a new crest earlier in the year, seemingly without permission from the fans. The blue half of Merseyside was in uproar. Apparently. Suitably chastened, the club launched a process of consultation with over 20,000 fans and then engaged a Liverpool based agency to help them develop a new crest, complete with supporter approval. You can see it here.

From an agency point of view, we feel sorry for those hard working folk involved the first redesign. It’s easy to be wise with the benefit of hindsight, but with many football clubs well over a hundred years old, their crest is often made up of important bits of history, all of which have a well-known meaning amongst the fanbase of the club. Surely a club cannot underestimate the emotional connection between club crest and supporters? Well, clearly it can, but should it have been? A clumsy two-footed tackle by the club? Or did they genuinely underestimate the strength of feeling amongst their fans? History tells us they might just have seen this coming…

In the late 1990’s, Manchester United were lambasted when the club removed the words ‘Football Club’ from their crest, making the words ‘Manchester’ and ‘United’ bigger and easier to read. Everyone seems to have got used to that now, but it would appear the owners of the club, the Glazer family, are looking at bringing it back again soon. Given that their website proclaims them to be ‘the world’s most popular football team’ we don’t envisage that being particularly cheap…

Around the same time, Manchester City (the author’s club, before anyone starts) redesigned their crest completely, as a result of the old one being ineligible for registration as a trademark. The new design featured many components of the old one, such as a ship (representing the Manchester Ship Canal) and three diagonal stripes (representing three Manchester rivers – Irwell, Irk and Medlock). Unfathomably, however, a golden eagle also appeared, which was apparently an old heraldic symbol of Manchester. To further confuse long-suffering City fans, three stars appeared above the eagle, something the club has since admitted was for purely decorative reasons and not representing honours won. {Insert your own joke about lack of trophies here}

It’s the emotional link between club and fans that we find most interesting. Big brands evolve (and sometimes completely redesign) their identities, but nobody as far as we know has refused to fly an airline or use a particular type of petrol due to not liking their logo.

But plenty of people have an emotional connection with other teams and sports, so has this sort of thing happened elsewhere? We’d be interested to know. Or is this sort of behavior unique to football? We suspect it might be.

For those interested, this link shows some interesting club badge redesigns, and explains the rationale behind each…


OpinionPaul Hartley