Soccer brand implementation
Six months since the initial launch of the Major League Soccer rebrand, as the league’s 20th season gets underway, we catch up with David Bruce, senior director of brand and integrated marketing at MLS to see how the brand implementation process is getting on.
The MLS’s radical rebrand, first implemented on the EA video game, FIFA 15, includes a shield logo that is adaptable for customisation by each of the league’s 19 separate clubs across the US and Canada. Implementing the new logo and brand across three agencies, league owners and MLS business partners is a huge project and one that is still ongoing.
Bruce says, “It is always a challenge when you don’t control the whole ecosystem where your brand operates. When we look at our brand we maybe control 30% of the touchpoints, the rest sits with our clubs and our partners (broadcast, commercial, media etc). That means a lot of education and understanding is needed – we created customized guidelines for each partner, held training sessions and made ourselves regularly available for partners to ask us questions.”
The rebrand was the MLS’s first major rebrand since its original logo was registered as a federal trademark on February 18, 1997. The logo had undergone minimal changes before but the 2014 rebrand completely reimagined the logo, losing the football and boot and incorporating the red, blue and white colours that feature in the American and Canadian flags. The three stars in the new logo stand for club, country and community.
Bruce says, “One positive that helped in the implementation was that our new brand was really a revolution rather than an evolution – this meant it was incredibly obvious to our partners that they needed to change to the new mark. In the past we had subtly tweaked the mark and this created a disjointed world of MLS logos.”
The drastic overhaul has created a consistent brand across all of the MLS touchpoints. The implementation is an ongoing process and has inevitably met some resistance, something that all sports brands face during a period of change due to the fierce loyalty of those in this particular sector.
Bruce says, “It’s very important to set targets. Our goal is to flip 90% of touchpoints to our new brand by our All-Star Game (July 29) this year, so roughly eight months after launch. This is fairly ambitious but important as it allows us all to remain focused and on track.”