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Exploring Visual Rebrands Within Sports

Creating new logos for established sports brands can be tricky. That is why designers and marketers must fully understand their subjects to be successful.

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image via Pixabay

(*Varsity Partners is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

Professional and college sports have been a staple of global culture for well over a century. Some of the most popular brands and teams in the world have been around for just as long. As a result, fans and other constituents grow attached to the colors, logos, and wordmarks associated with their favorite entity. So when that entity goes through a visual rebrand, it can be a tricky situation.

For designers and marketers, the first step in a visual rebrand should be to make sure they understand the cultural and brand equity of the subject. Tim Rebich and Nick Irwin of Varsity Partners describe the key aspects of this first step.

“The first step is defining where the equity lies in the brand—is it the brandmark? The jerseys? The people? The office dog? The colors? This question helps answer what is at the foundation of this brand. In sports, specifically, a lot of this could center around the fan base and how they emotionally connect to the brand.”  

A prime recent example within the sports world can be seen in Major League Soccer club FC Cincinnati. When the club made the jump from the USL to MLS, they changed their crest to incorporate several elements meant to represent different parts of the city.

The attention to detail demonstrated that FC Cincinnati understood a big part of what makes the club unique is the fans and the way the city has embraced the club amidst their rapid rise.

SEE MORE: The Importance of Creative Collaboration

“We knew we wanted an evolutionary change, not a revolutionary change,” FC Cincinnati General Manager and President Jeff Berding said of the new crest.  “We wanted to make the city of Cincinnati much more prominent, and we knew we wanted to keep the lion, since it pertains to the king of the jungle. But, overall, we already knew most aspects of our branding worked. It wouldn’t make sense to completely start over on our marks.”

FC Cincinnati’s new branding guide now highlights the different meanings behind the new elements as well as the reason for retaining aspects of the old crest. This pertains to the second principle of a successful visual rebrand: always having a clear and concise strategy.

“Providing rhyme, reason and relevance for all design decisions while being honest with your audience goes a long way in establishing authenticity in a rebrand,” say Rebich and Irwin. “We’re not talking about the over-explanation of logos, but the decisions that are true to the spirit of the organization. A design strategy rooted in purpose and intention will always yield a well-designed identity.”

With any identity project, all design decisions should have purpose and intention without being over-explained. In the long run, this over-explanation trend in sports branding could potentially cloud decision-making for the design team and expectations from the client.

One good example of this can be found in the design of Juventus’ new logo. A step removed from a traditional soccer crest, the new logo nevertheless incorporates classic elements of the club’s aesthetic that ardent fans will instantly recognize while delivering a modern look that helps Juventus stand out among Serie A and other European clubs. The design also does not get over-complicated or overly intricate to the point of excess.

Another good example of this concept comes from Varsity Partners’ work with the Jay Bilas Skills Camp. Varsity Partners designed a new logo to be used for merchandise and other activations pertaining to the camp to help define an overall brand direction and construct an identity that would become the brand’s foundation. 

Varsity Partners thoroughly thought out each element of the logo and why it makes sense for the organization. This goes one step further to cultivate a deeper connection between a brand and those connect to it.

Ultimately, when it comes to finalizing a visual rebrand, the identity design is only as successful as the rollout and integration into the organization. Marketers must design with the whole picture of the brand in mind.

READ MORE: LAFC Goes Digital to Deepen Connection With Passionate Fan Base

Simply getting to know the internal team on a human level benefits the entire rebrand and de-corporatizes the ‘buy-in’ buzzword,” Rebich and Irwin say. “Proper identity usage, standardization and management is just as important as the initial design process and has just as much impact on the continued success of the new or updated identity.”

To find an example of this, look to the rebrand of Front Office Sports in 2018, roughly three years after our launch. Rebich and Irwin explain the process of successfully building out the new visual identity.

“Working with the leadership team at FOS, we were able to create a successful identity that aligned with the business moving forward. We all discussed and understood the current brand equity, developed a strategy based on business-success metrics and created an identity that can be extended and clearly implemented via various tactics, events and other brand touch points.”

Some visual rebrands are rather dramatic. Others are simpler. But in order for one of either scale to be successful, a high level of care and attention to detail needs to present.

For more on how Varsity Partners spearhead creative strategy for some of the biggest brands in sports and entertainment, visit GoVarsity.com today.

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Dallas Cowboys’ Digital Team Takes on Texas-Sized Storytelling

With one of the largest social media audiences in sports, there really isn’t an offseason for the Dallas Cowboys’ digital team.

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Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

(*Team Infographics is a Proud Partner of Front Office Sports)

There are many superlatives to describe the Dallas Cowboys organization. On top of the five Super Bowl victories, the Cowboys are valued at $4.8 billion, the highest figure of any professional sports team in the world. The Cowboys are also on or near the top of the NFL, as well as the global pro sports landscape, in terms of total audience on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Telling a story to that big of an audience can be daunting. It’s a challenge, however, that the digital team of Taylor Stern (Content Strategist), Shannon Gross (Director of Content Strategy) and Dana Byrnes (Social Media Coordinator) continually meets. With their combined experience, the group has come to understand how to approach the NFL offseason from a digital perspective. When the season ends on the field, the digital team begins to recap the team’s accomplishments while being sensitive to how the season ended as well as personnel changes. There isn’t too much time to dwell on the past though with things like free agency, schedule releases and the NFL Draft quickly approaching.

“As far as preparing and getting ready for other events that are coming, you kind of hit the ground running right away,” Stern says. “It’s all immediate. For some of the other smaller events such as the combine that fall in between, we have game plans set. I think it’s just having consistency in the offseason that we’ve really found to be the key because during the season you can’t really prepare for it because you’re so focused on what’s happening in the moment.”

In recent years, the Cowboys’ digital success during the regular season and postseason has been best exemplified by the storytelling in their video work. Particularly, in the buildup to the 2016 playoffs, the Cowboys released a series entitled “#FinishThisFight,” which consisted of short-form documentaries about the struggles notable players overcame to obtain their current success. The series reached over four million people combined on social media.

“It was really unique because, for the first time ever, we got the players to tell their own stories headed into those playoffs and then actually followed up in the off-season,” Stern recalls. “I was lucky to be a part of a team that went and did this documentary that we actually won an Emmy for. Following up for 2018’s playoff run, we went with #FinishThisFight again, and we had great videos once again.”

2018’s #FinishThisFight included a video simply called “Round 2” featuring Cowboys fan and world champion boxer Errol Spence Jr. That video had a reach of over two million on Facebook.

While the Cowboys have the largest audience on Facebook, the digital team puts the most effort, in terms of strategy, into the team’s Instagram presence. That page includes no sponsored content or promotional posts. As a result, the team has seen more growth on Instagram in the past year than on any other platform.

“I don’t think that as a brand we’ve ever been flashy with contests or things of that nature,” Stern says. “Instagram is so focused on images, and we have great photographers that we want to show off and make images stand out instead of being buried against an ad.”

Something that you will find on the Cowboys’ social pages is content created through the team’s partnership with Team Infographics. The digital team and Team Infographics work together to create templates for score updates and player of the game posts as well as things like schedule releases. It can all be modified and rendered on the fly through the company’s easy-to-use CMS.

“Team Infographics are absolutely incredible and the customer service that they’ve been able to provide us is unlike any other vendor I’ve ever worked with,” Stern says. “Doing graphics in-game is a huge part of the game-day experience on social media. The PSD files were messy [before Team Infographics]. I think it’s heaven-sent because of the fact that it’s all just on a web page, all custom and unique to us. It’s the best system I’ve used.”

Now, just a few short months away from another NFL season, the Cowboys digital team is settling in for another year of churning out high-quality content. This approach can be an example for aspiring sports professionals to keep working hard and trying to outdo themselves.

“Don’t take your foot off the gas,” Stern advises. “It’s really easy to get discouraged in this business. But just keep grinding, keep working and keep changing and adapting and growing, and you’ll get to where you want to be in time.”

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Viz Arena’s Down & Distance Gives Ravens Fans More to Cheer About

Vizrt’s game-changing technology is a vital storytelling tool for the Baltimore Ravens and soon could be throughout professional football.

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Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

(*VIZRT is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

The NFL’s Baltimore Ravens know a lot about meeting goals on and off the field. Since 2000, the team has won two Super Bowl, two AFC Championships and five AFC North division titles. Now, as a three-year, $120 million renovation nears completion, the Ravens want to make M&T Stadium the very best place in the U.S. to experience football.

Vizrt’s Viz Arena live sports enhancement solution is a vital part of the upgrade. Both a fan enhancement tool and a monetization solution, Viz Arena enables the addition of augmented reality graphics, including virtual ads, through image-based tracking.

The sweeping renovation also includes a high-density WiFi network, larger and higher-resolution in-stadium video screens and a completely overhauled control room with the most advanced video production solutions available today.

With Viz Arena and their new broadcast equipment, the Ravens can now give fans an even more immersive in-stadium experience through cleaner, more professional in-stadium programming. The team also tacked on a package called Down & Distance, a software application of Viz Arena that inserts a yellow first-down marker, making the line appear painted on the field rather than digitally imposed. This is the first application of its kind available in 1080p or 4K without any upscaling or complex image processing.

For Vice President of Broadcasting and Gameday Productions Jay O’Brien and his production staff, this means enhancing replays and in-stadium entertainment to include first-down line capabilities for the first time.

It’s become the standard for watching football and has completely changed the viewing experience,” explains O’Brien. “Fans aren’t looking at sticks and the chain any more. They look to the video boards. The yellow line has changed fans’ viewing patterns, so it has to be accurate and reliable. We can’t afford any mistakes.”  

The Viz Arena Down & Distance tool can also seamlessly and unobtrusively integrate locked-in virtual graphics or ads on or around the field of play. They can be fully integrated into a production at a specific location or tied to the lines as they move.This versatility allows multiple sponsors and graphics to change throughout the game. It adds an extra incentive for sponsors and another revenue stream for the organization.

“What’s surprising is how much Down & Distance has changed the way we produce our content,” O’Brien continues, “It gives us in the control room information in real time that’s vital to enhance the in-stadium fan experience and get more value from our programming.”

In the past, O’Brien worked with other similar video solutions that didn’t live up to his team’s needs or expectations. After using Viz Arena’s Down and Distance for a short time, however, he could see that the end product was of a higher quality altogether. Not only that, it’s cost-effective: Down and Distance depends on live or archived footage instead of cameras and doesn’t require expensive, labor-intensive deployment.

As an added bonus, the solution only took O’Brien and his team roughly 25 minutes to set up and about the same time to learn how to use. All told, O’Brien expects the solution to be a much bigger part of the fan experience landscape in the near future.

“Vizrt wants to innovate with us. They want a larger footprint in the NFL space, and that’s sure to happen as more teams become aware of what Viz Arena and its applications can do,” he says. “I’ve been a cheerleader for this product, and we want to stretch our use of the solution even further next year.”

For more information Vizrt’s Viz Arena and Down & Distance application, please visit www.vizrt.com or email sports@vizrt.com.

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Connect&GO’s RFID Solutions Improve Live Events For Fans And Venues

The founders of Connect&GO brought several uses for radio-frequency identification technology to the world of live sports and entertainment.

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Photo Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

(*Connect&GO is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology can have many practical uses. In the past, Anthony Palermo has developed RFID solutions within the realms of healthcare, pharmaceuticals, aerospace and military operations. In 2012, Palermo and Dominic Gagnon joined forces to found Connect&GO in Montréal, Québec. Connect&GO provides RFID solutions for sports and entertainment events and venues all over the world.

Seven years ago, Palermo and Gagnon had their first major success within the sports industry with Montréal’s Saputo Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s Montréal Impact.

At the time, Saputo Stadium comfortably sat about 16,000 fans, but a plan was in process to add 5,000 more seats. The venue enlisted Palermo and Gagnon to find a way to attract more fans while simultaneously making game entry  as easy as possible. Their solution was a plastic key that fans could scan in an express lane to enter the stadium on game days.

“The concept was fans could have their own key to the stadium,” Palermo says. “We wanted to make fans feel like the stadium belonged to them.”

Every seventh fan that scanned their key would even see their name and photo appear on a monitor welcoming them to the stadium. Fans could also scan the keys at several points around the stadium to enter contests, utilize photo kiosks and collect points that were redeemable at the fan shop and other areas tied into the stadium. It was from this success that Palermo and Gagnon realized they had a valuable tool for access control as well as cashless payments and experiential activations. From there, Connect&GO was born.

“We personally believe, as a company and as founders of the company, that technology should only be there to make an experience better, not to impose on an experience,” Palermo says. “What we’re trying to do is look at guest experiences and ask how do we make it a better? How do we make people see the value in being a VIP or a season ticket holder?

“What we don’t want to do is have people use technology for technology’s sake. We don’t want to drive people to an app. We want to maximize the amount of time that people are using to actually take in the game or show. That’s a personal mission that we have.”

This focus on the guest experience is what Palermo believes sets Connect&GO apart from other RFID solutions providers in the space.

“RFID just happened to be the technology that as a team we mastered over the years, but it really wasn’t about that.” he says. We ask questions such as, ‘How do people enter? Is the parking frustrating? Is getting through security frustrating?’ What we’re trying to do is make everything that much easier, and it gets people to just enjoy their experience as well.”

After the Saputo Stadium project, Connect&GO partnered with the Osheaga Festival, Canada’s largest music festival. From there, the company has performed activations with brands including Pepsi and HBO at events like the Super Bowl, the Olympics, Comicon and SXSW. In 2017, Sports Illustrated named Connect&GO a company that will “change the way you watch sports.” Moving forward, Connect&GO has activations lined up with the Rogers Cup and the AFL.

As Connect&GO continues to focus on ways to improve the guest experience through access, payments and experiential solutions, look for their footprint within the sports industry to continue to grow exponentially in the near future.

Learn more about Connect&GO and how they connect the fan experience at live games in their latest whitepaper here.

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