Monday, November 27, 2006

Minor Leaguers Can Look Major League.

Springfield Cardinals Minor League Identity: Polished, Professional, Perfect.

I've been outspoken about the silliness/goofiness/wackiness of minor league baseball team branding. My issue is that minor league marketing executives believe that the success of a minor league logo is all about being "cartoony and quirky". This seems both simplistic and short sighted to me.

While fully understanding Minor League baseball marketing is all about affordable family fun, I am in disagreement that every identity needs to look like a cartoon (or a heavy handed complicated illustration). The following examples are NOT provided to condemn the designers (who are paid to meet team objectives), they are just the providers of the illustrations, not the enablers (the team marketing executives take the blame) of this brand business. And it iseems to be getting sillier every change.

Here's my Top Five Silly Sampling

1. Toledo Mud Hens (I'll take my eggs over easy)

2. Modesto Nuts (Okay, I'll admit you start with a name like Nuts and you're doomed)

Kid: "Hey #8... are you Nuts?"
Player: "Nah kid, I'm just a Nut, okay?"
Kid" Oh, okay, kinda nutty huh?"

3. Lansing LugNuts (You cannot comment on Nuts without commenting on LugNuts...)

Uniform: Yes, it says LUGNUTS..

4. Vermont Lake Monsters (kinda just rolls off your tongue doesn't it?)

I'm sure the state of Vermont is proud of their Lake Monsters? Huh?

5. Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (There is nothing silly or cute about this is there?)

Okay, I'd easily accept Iron Horses in honor of all-time great Lou Gehrig's nickname. But please Iron Pigs?

My point being a large percentage of minor league logos look so minor league that they hurt.

Then, there's the Springfield Cardinals brand identity. Wonderful. Sharp. RELEVANT!

A major league look for a minor league baseball team. This is branding nirvana.

New cap design:

How relevant is this minor league identity. Let me delightfully count the ways.

1. The Springfield Cardinals major league affiliation is the St. Louis Cardinals.
2. Springfield Cardinals color scheme: classy and traditonally sharp.
3. High socks with beuatifully striping. Outstandingly cool.

I want to applaud GM Matt Gifford for providing clear concise wonderful evidence minor league teams can look professional, have a personality and tie directly to the MLB pro team.

Hey minor league logo designers take note, do your research, but away the Disney sketch books and create something wonderful.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Best Sports Branding Solution... Ever?

The NHL Expansion Branding of 1967. Simply beautiful.

While holiday shopping at the HawkQuarters (the official retail store of the Chicago Blackhawks) and a must visit if you're in Chicago (, I came across this fairly nondescript hockey cap.

What caught my eye was the simple beauty of the six '67 NHL expansion team logos. I then began wondering if the design of these six teams was my favorite all-time sports branding solution? After writing this blog, it is in fact is my favorite!

I had experience with branding expansion teams both with the 1995 NBA expansion of the Toronto Raptors, the Vancouver Grizzlies, and the 2003 Charlotte Bobcats, I'd been the central driving force of the WNBA league and team branding launch in 1996. But I had to be honest with myself. The six NHL expansion team logos and uniforms were better. One could rationalize that NBA Commissioner Stern and WNBA President Ackerman wanted team and city names (and if possible the WNBA ball) in all the logos, thus making it impossible to create iconographic symbols.

In the 1967-1968 season, the NHL expanded from six teams to 12. These new franchises provided new designs in uniforms, logos, and new colors as well. The traditional "Original 6" colors of red, blue, black and gold color schemes would be passe now with the new teams introducing NHL hockey to the world to orange, green, powder blue, process blue and even that wonderful color purple. Hockey uniforms were a reflection of the times...bright, bold and counter cultural. Terrific!

Upon further reflection, I also realized the designers at the time had struck a terrific balance between the traditional applications of the "Golden Rules" of a hockey sweater (see below) and the classic look of the Original Six of the Bruins, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Canadiens, Rangers and Maple Leafs.



"Thou shalt only use a crest, monogram or diagonal type" Otherwords, no typefonts allowed anywhere at anytime under any circumstance, are you listening Anaheim Ducks??? The NHL if they are anything (and they're not much these days) are about the older cooler looking hockey jerseys. Mr. Bettmann, hasn't enough damage been done to the NHL already... please stop lettering on jerseys already. Hockey's not baseball.


No black or navy blue dominant colors? Yes, the Oakland Seals had a deep shade of green but they made up for that later for sure. This is not today's NHL with an alternate black uniform for EVER team... Mr. Bettmann, please stop the black alts. already


Especially in an expansion season with six new teams, you cannot reinforce player identities enough so numbers on the sleeve (not by the neck Sabres) is critical.

Okay, enough of my pontification. For proof of the best sports branding solution here are the six NHL team identities (logo and uniforms).

1. Los Angeles Kings // Forum blue (purple) and gold (yellow)


2. Minnesota North Stars // Kelly green and yellow


3. Oakland Seals // Forest green, pacific blue and yellow


4. Philadelphia Flyers // Orange and black


5. Pittsburgh Penguins // Powder blue, indigo navy and yellow
Logo (even better!)


6. St. Louis Blues // Process blue, yellow.
(Notice how the Blues once used lettering/then remebered the crest rule and dumped them).


In conclusion, the strategy and execution of the NHL's 1967-68 Expansion Six is one of the most visually outstanding and engaging sports branding solutions ever!

The Pro League creative services groups could learn a lot about sports branding by just looking back to see what constitutes a truly great identity solution. Otherwise, they are doomed to repeat the Sabres, Ducks, Thrashers, Stars alts and Blue Jackets alts recent misses.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Chicago 2016 Olympics Logo/Icon Thoughts.

A Chicago Global Sports Icon.

I've been asked by multiple business and social acquaintances my thoughts on the recently unveiled Chicago 2016 Olympics logo. Having developed over 30 global sports logos and event branding campaigns for the NBA, I was curious to see what the city was offering up and on October 12th, our beloved Mayor Daley unveiled the new logo at the Pritzer Pavilion at Millennium Park.

I had a sense of anticipation and pride for what our city would be using as the center point for all visual communications and merchandise for the Games (if we are fortunate enough to land them). I am a big fan of the work that the design firm, VSA Partners does here in Chicago and so the expectations were very high.

When I saw the logo for the first time, it did not resonate with me. And as time has gone on and I've studied it further, I am officially disappointed.

Here's my critique starting with overview of the logo from VSA Partners web site:

"The flame, in the shape of Chicagos' skyline, reflects the international significance of Chicago architecture and speaks to the vitality of a city that rose from the ashes. The body of the torch merges a color palette that represents the blue of Lake Michigan with the vibrant green of the city's park system -- further underscoring Chicago's commitment to the environment and sustainability. Together, these visual elements evoke the spirit of the Olympic Games and its values. It also evokes Chicago's Games concept, to host compact Games celebrated in the center of the city, along the Lake Front and in the city's parks."

Okay, got it. Sounds like solid justification for the development of the mark.

My thoughts-

1. Too tall. Not broadcast friendly. At all. By 2016, when most of the broadcast formats will be HDTV 16 x 9, the logo will need to be cut and sliced to fit the tube.

2. Colors. Not necessarily merchandise friendly. You will not catch me wearing patina and orange together? And unless you're Carmin Miranda, you probably will not either.

Chicago has a great city flag (see below) and it is a great sense of civic pride so why not feature one of both of thosecolors in the icon? Not sure why not either?

3. The color gradation. Very hard to reproduce over the vast array of applications.

4. Torch. Was hoping to see something more original than another torch.

5. The Great Chicago Fire.

... a city that rose from the ashes...

Well yeah, but Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over that lantern 145 years to the year of the '16 Olympics...come on Chicago, let's get over it already.

6. Finally, yes it does it look like the Sears Tower is sitting on a golf tee. Sorry.

Those are my thoughts.

Hopefully, once and if Chicago gets awarded the Games a more open design competition will be incorporated so Chicago has an icon it can truly be proud to call its' own.