Arguably, professional sports account for a tremendous percentage of Americans' time and spending on entertainment....
We're sports crazy in this country. As a self-proclaimed sports nut, I enjoy team sports as a spectator, and participant. Especially hockey. As the principal of a design consultancy, it is also of great interest to me to study the brands that are our professional sports organizations.
Over time, professional sports brands can become tarnished. Take the baseball strike of a few years ago. It took a while once players and management settled, to get large numbers of fans back into the ball parks, but it happened. It took some work on the part of Major League Baseball to recreate and rebrand itself. But it did. Great new stars emerged with a truly international flavor, as they hailed from all over the Caribbean, Japan and Latin America. With the current steroid use scandal, it will be interesting to see how Bud Selig and the MLB brass work to restore the faith of fans in the intrinsic value of the game and the validity of future records.
Likewise, the National Basketball Association is working to reposition itself after a few notorious and well-publicized events involving player and fan scuffles at games, and the arrests of players with bad-boy or "gangsta" images. The NBA is now trying to polish its image. The league has passed a new dress code rule, for example, insisting that its highly paid players dress like business people when traveling to and from games. It is also passing steeper fines and suspensions on players who break the rules, or worse, the law.
When the National Hockey League concluded successful contract negotiations ensuring that there would actually be a professional hockey season after a year off last season, the league decided that it was time to revitalize its brand. Since the NHL had had the same identity since 1918, this was long overdue! At the same time, the league made some new rule changes for the game to speed up an already fast game. Both of these steps were obviously taken recently to polish up the tarnished image of the league with fans.
The NHL's new logo features an updated badge that has a three-dimensional quality to it, with shiny, silver lettering on a black ground. The silver connotes Lord Stanley's cup, arguably the most prized championship trophy in North America. The serifs on the new logo lettering, leaning leftward, denotes speed and movement: trademarks of a fast sport. Whether these changes enable the NHL to rebound and grow in popularity, or the sport continues to lag well behind the other professional team sports, remains to be seen.
Let's hope that professional sports continue to rebrand their organizations and espouse/renew their commitment to the values that legions of their fans hold dear. Clean contemporized images and brand messaging, players who are role models and periodic rule changes that make these sports more enjoyable all add up to strong professional sports brands.
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