Insights
Nov 09, 2017


How can design bring innovation into sport?

Sport vs tradition

by Giacomo Cesana

Close your eyes and think of a sporting brand.
If you thought of Nike or Adidas, you are in the majority, and this no means by chance. The sporting universe is characterised by dynamism, performance, results and improvement. All concepts which look ahead, towards the future.

No-one would be likely to associate sport with the concepts of history, tradition, and a glorious past. But if we look at the world of football, the European sport par excellence, where we find teams which are global brands far beyond the business of matches played, and we focus on the identity of the teams, we discover a very homogeneous universe of brands in the form of coats-of-arms, rich with historic elements. A world in which renewal and improvement, at least from the point of view of visual identity, takes place with great caution, at times even being seen as something negative, as was the case with Everton in England.

Taking our theory, which sees a misalignment of values between the brands of countless European football teams and the world of sport, as fact: what can design do in such a market?

There are a couple of examples that in my opinion are worth examining in order to find a solution. The first is the re-branding of the Premier League, the second is the case of Juventus.

In both cases the two companies have undergone an extensive evolution of their historical and traditional past, presenting themselves to fans, spectators, sponsors and investors with an identity which looks to the future and to new challenges. First of all, with a radical change in brand, which abandons the traditional heraldic elements in favour of a more essential and contemporary version, embracing a highly modern brand identity with the use of colours and other graphical elements.

This move is the climax of a process which has seen the Premier League and Juventus as forerunners in the offering of a new brand experience made up of engagement programmes, thematic offers (restaurants, museums, shopping), and even playlists on Spotify: in other words, brands which go far beyond football and individual matches, brand experiences which are capable of also attracting people who are not so interested in football, shifting the focus from the football pitch to wider-ranging areas.

Without these premises it would be difficult to justify such bold changes in the football universe, and it would be difficult to imagine an alternative future in the panorama of football brands, even if, as a creative director and dedicated fan, I hope this is possible.

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