The Alliance of American Football (AAF), a new eight-team professional football league with strong backing, kicks off its first season on February 9. With that being just a few short months away, naturally, we are seeing the league quickly build out its staff with some quality names from across the sports business spectrum.
On the digital creative side, the AAF has brought in a veteran designer and content creator, Christopher Stoney, as its first creative director.
I’m extremely honored and excited to announce that I am the Creative Director for the Alliance of American Football.
I am thrilled with the team we’re assembling, and I cannot wait to share this journey with all of you.
Thank you for the inspiration and support! Let’s go!! pic.twitter.com/XuZzDOeGmw
— Christopher Stoney (@ChrisStoney) November 5, 2018
Stoney spent two years with the University of Central Florida athletic department, where he took on the role of assistant director of digital media. Knights fans have likely seen quite a bit of his work in their social feeds over the last few years during the program’s rise to prominence. Then, early in 2018, Stoney realized a lifelong dream of joining the NFL ranks as a graphic designer for the Seattle Seahawks.
During his time in Seattle, Stoney made contact with Ben Rose — the AAF’s director of marketing — as well as the organization’s budding leadership team, and was eventually offered the opportunity of a lifetime.
“Getting to work for the Seattle Seahawks was a dream come true,” Stoney said while reflecting on his experience. “I spoke to Ben Rose and we spoke in-depth about the league and about some stuff they have coming up. What he was telling me was blowing me away in terms of what they were looking to do creatively for marketing, social and digital. My eyes just lit up because it was everything that I was hoping to do professionally.”
Stoney began working on freelance projects for the AAF’s email marketing campaign, website, and the original eight teams in the league. At that point, the AAF was very happy with Stoney’s work and asked him to lead its creative services on a full-time basis.
Needless to say, Stoney is incredibly excited for the opportunity to build the league’s brand, as well as those of its teams, from the ground up.
“I look at it like there are nine brands (the league and the eight teams) that nobody really knows much about right now. So, that’s nine opportunities to impress somebody, to capture somebody’s attention, to deliver information and get someone excited for football. So, having nine opportunities to do that is just unbelievably exciting. You hear a lot about startup culture where people are just having fun and working hard, and that’s every bit of what it’s like working with the AAF.”
One of Stoney’s first tasks as the AAF’s creative director was bringing on two full-time designers to join him at the league offices in San Francisco and Tampa, Florida.
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“When I was going through a list of people that had applied, I was looking for people that were young, that were energetic, that were excited to be a part of something that was going to be brand new. More than anything, I was looking for someone who was capable of building a brand and owning it. I wanted someone who could take something that looked like it was heading down one road and bring it another way. “
The first position went to Dan Goldfarb, a designer whose portfolio includes big names such as STN Digital and Fox Sports.
Incredibly excited to announce that I’ve accepted a full-time design job in Tampa, Florida with The Alliance of American Football (@TheAAF). Big things coming from our creative team this year! pic.twitter.com/6leEtP1lEZ
— Dan Goldfarb (@degarts) November 4, 2018
Goldfarb wowed Stoney, in particular, with a brand study in his portfolio based on the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams. Stoney explained why this piece stuck with him.
“My favorite thing about that is he didn’t lean on any current styles of the L.A. Rams. He didn’t take anything that they’ve already done or created. He didn’t use them as a guide to make something. He took the Rams, stripped them of all of their brand and then built a new brand based off what he thought of it. So, right then and there, that was like a checkbox in my mind. This guy has never had someone to really give him a creative direction to build a brand, but he’s already got something in his portfolio that tells me that he could build a brand if he’s given that opportunity.”
Stoney also decided on bringing in Demetrius “Meech” Robinson, a University of Michigan alumnus who has worked with Rutgers and the Florida Gators in the past.
Thrilled to announce that I will be moving to San Francisco, CA to be a Graphic Designer with The Alliance of American Football (@TheAAF). INCREDIBLY DOPE content coming from our creative team! Stay tuned ???? pic.twitter.com/4pMQ2JNHZC
— Meech Robinson (@designermeech) November 6, 2018
In addition to his past full-time gigs, Robinson’s various passion projects in his portfolio convinced Stoney that he was ready for this role.
“The one that really jumped out to me,” Stoney said, “was this one where he highlighted a lot of notable women in sports, and he made each of these designs that encapsulated the emotion of the subjects. It really spoke to me on how exciting it was to see this project that he had branded himself. It really showed me that he had an overall grasp of what good branding looks like for 2018 in digital media.”
Speaking with Degarb and Robinson for the first time solidified for Stoney that they would fit right in with the AAF’s culture.
“Right off the bat, I knew I had the two absolute top candidates,” he said. “They’re both excited. They were both really interested in what the Alliance was doing differently from other leagues, and they were both just hungry and wanting to create. It was phenomenal.”
With the league only fairly recently releasing logos, names, and colors for the eight teams taking part in the first season, Stoney and company have faced an uphill battle in creating the league’s digital brand. They have created something unique, however, that when complete, it will reflect the brand of football that the league hopes to put on the field: speed, precision, and excitement.
“It’s really hard to take eight or nine logos and color schemes and then make six months worth of content,” Stoney emphasized. “That’s basically what we’ve had to do. So, what I’ve tried to do is take a step back and look at everything from a macro scale. When I think of a new football league like the Alliance, that’s going to really be based on technology and speeding up the flow of the game. How can I tell that story in a brand? So what I’m looking to do is really emphasize the technological aspect of everything; the speed of not only our players, but of the game being sped up with less commercial breaks, no kickoffs or extra point kicks or anything like that.”
The key takeaway is excitement. The league is excited for the new brand of football that will begin the Saturday after the Super Bowl. Stoney is excited for the task ahead in building this brand alongside Goldfarb and Robinson. Curious new fans, too, should be excited about what this group is building.