Badge of Honour

Almost a year ago, I wrote a blog on the latent potential for sponsors of Major League Soccer, citing climbing attendances, announcements of new teams with celebrity backers, a new major broadcast deal and a raft of high profile players from Europe.

On the face of it, the latest step in this development may not seem to be the most significant, but it’s perhaps more innovative than it first seems, and is yet another indication of the League’s progressive thinking that is helping to raise its profile with fans and sponsors alike.

With the current logo having been in use since the League played its first game in 1996, it was perhaps time for a refresh. The new effort is much more than a simple change of font, however. There are the usual ‘design inspirations’ that always surround a launch of any new logo whether that be in sport, art or fashion. In this case, the primary colours represent the United States and Canada, home to all MLS Franchises, whilst the prominent 3 stars represent the brand’s core values of ‘Club, Country and Community’. Nothing too groundbreaking here.

What sets this new design apart is the fact that the colours are fully interchangeable, making it easier for teams and sponsors to incorporate into their own content, whilst helping to drive the overall profile of the League itself. Any rightsholder’s goal should be to drive scale and commercial saleability for their property, and in something as simple as allowing interchangeable colours in their logo, the MLS is making it easier for both sponsors and teams to promote the League on their behalf around the globe.

Here it is amended for all teams within the League and how it will look on the LA Galaxy kit as of next season:

A criticism often leveled at rightsholders is that they are prohibitively inflexible, often fearing that the equity that they have invested over time in their own intellectual property will be compromised as sponsors make their presence felt. It is easy to see why this can be the case – sponsors after all, will come and go, so effort must be made in order to protect the enduring asset. What the MLS have done - and what I hope they continue to do in other areas – is to keep the bigger picture in mind of the promotion and growth of their sport, whilst appreciating the sponsors’ role within this.

LOCOG dipped their toe in this water for London 2012, developing a suite of colours for the Official Logo, allowing partners some freedom in its use in various contexts. It is also reminiscent of the Coca-Cola ‘Club Colours’ campaign – in which Synergy was instrumental – which saw Coke, as sponsors of the Football League, change the colours of its iconic logo for the first time in its history to match the colours of all 72 Football League clubs.

The MLS example however, represents a significant next step and a template for the future, that I would expect to see replicated elsewhere in the world – particularly in the developing leagues of Australia, Asia and the Middle East.

A perpetual issue within the launch of new partnerships can be the design of composite logos, which try, often in vain, to shoe-horn sponsor marks in with the existing logos of the rightsholder. If, as expected, the MLS open up their logo template to sponsors, it will be interesting to see whether more conservative football bodies such as the Premier League and the Football League take some inspiration from the other side of the pond – particularly with major title sponsorships on the market in the near future.