Category Archives: Logo Reviews

Gold Coast Suns and GWS Giants Logos

Logo Review: Gold Coast Suns and GWS Giants

Today’s review combines the two newest AFL teams – the Gold Coast Suns and the Greater Western Sydney Giants. Due to the lack of history I didn’t think it necessary to create separate posts for the two teams, rather I’ll review the logos on their own merit after a brief comparison to begin.

Opposite ends of the spectrum

It’s hard to imagine that two teams created within such a short amount of time could look so different. Where other teams have historical logos that can trace historical logo trends, these two logos show how branding should transcend visual trends, and how in the current day and age they do. The other way these two logos contrast is in the quality of the design work.

The Suns

Lets start with the bad. The GC Suns logo has as many frilly effects as substance. There’s no doubting that this is a sunny logo, with bright colour, gradients, strokes aplenty and glow effects all pointing towards the fact that this is the Gold Coast SUNS.

My two biggest gripes with the logo are the GC letters in the football which look incredibly amateur (and what’s the blue shadow behind the football??), and the completely awkward serifs on the U and N, which have been executed so badly that I cannot say anything good about them.

The only positives I have about the logo are that it is unique and the opposite of bland.

Unfortunately I was unable to find any press releases about the logo, or
even to see a credit to who designed the thing! My guess is AFL Media,
but if anybody knows who it is, I’d appreciate knowing about it.

The Giants

On the other end of the branding spectrum is the GWS Giants logo, created by Principals. The strategy here is to get the community and the team to think big, to be ambitious. In this instance, the execution is what makes this logo stand worlds apart from the Suns logo. Where the Suns rely on effects, this logo communicates the strategy effectively by having a large G as the brandmark across the uniform, and by using a bright orange to stand out from the pack. It is an audacious logo, but at the same time it feels a little too corporate and not enough like a football club. It also feels like a designer’s club logo, one which is a little self-indulgent and not one that will relate well to younger fans – especially with the added competition of A-League football in the area.

The club may struggle to connect with the area around it if the cold yet vibrant, ultra modern logo isn’t teamed up with an incredible level of growth on the field. My worry for the GWS is that now with the Western Sydney Wanderers having such an amazing growth in such a short period of time, they will remain a distant second in popularity in an area that seems much less interested in Aussie Rules, and much more interested in the world game.

To sum up the Giants logo: it sells the corporate strategy, but does little to sell the essence, the vibe and the truth of Australian Rules football. The AFL has an amazing product and they’ll have to do a very good job in selling it to the target audience.

To sum up the Gold Coast logo: it will probably connect with its audience a little better but from an aesthetic point of view it doesn’t win any awards, and I hope in the coming few years as the club discovers its brand that it can communicate itself a little more professionally.

Geelong Cats Football Club Players

Logo Review: Geelong Cats

The Geelong Cats are one of the greatest teams of the past decade. From 2007-2011 they won premierships in every consecutive odd year. In the modern football era where teams aim to win 1 or 2 premierships then rebuild for another go at it within 4 or 5 years, the sustained success of the club is remarkable. Even now in 2013 they’re still a major force in the competition.

Launched for the 2008 season after a 4 year rebranding process, the latest Geelong Cats logos are an interesting study into modern football club rebrands. In 2007 a new motto was decided upon. According to this Geelong Advertiser article the new motto was “Footy Full On”, and the Chief Executive explained it like this:

“Footy full-on means whatever we do is full-on. We might not win every game, but we’ll be full-on. We might not serve the best coffee every time, but we’ll be full-on.”

Brian Cook
Geelong Football Club CEO

Cook said the club had to develop a strong brand, irrespective of on-field success.

“It’s about getting bigger and better and more popular. We wanted to identify, from a behavioural point of view, a point of difference. The new brand reflects these values,” he said.

“Footy full-on means whatever we do is full-on. We might not win every game, but we’ll be full-on. We might not serve the best coffee every time, but we’ll be full-on.”

The rebranding of a club is a fantastic way to bring in a new or improved club vision. One of the things I love about the Advertiser article is the part about ‘…irrespective of on-field success’. The more I’ve learnt about great clubs in Australia, the U.S. and the U.K., I’ve found that the most successful clubs who have turned their clubs fortunes around are the ones that invest heavily into their off-field success, where managing a club isn’t just about player and staff management (or how many pokies venues you’ve got), but also about growing the membership and supporter base. Yes, winning a premiership is one of the greatest things a club can do to grow financially, however a more sustainable and longer lasting version of growth can be found with investing in increased fan and sponsor engagement.

Now to review the logo…

The latest logos definitely reflect the new brand values of the club, and for that they receive a big tick in my book. The front-on cat-in-the-shield is ‘full on’ and the type is all bold, which ties in nicely with the corporate vision of the club to become more adventurous. The secondary logo (far right above) which is used on the uniforms would keep the traditional punters happy, in the event that some saw the new primary mark as possibly being too Americanised or cartoony.

Geelong Cats Logo Evolution
Geelong Cats Logo Timeline, 1970 onwards.

My complaints about the new logo are only focused on the primary logo and are more technical in nature. As I said earlier, conceptually it works and it ties in with the rest of the brand, however the area at the top of the cat’s head with the ears doesn’t integrate nicely into the shield where there’s an overly large chunk of navy blue left between the cat and ‘Geelong’ text. The full logo also uses a lot of effects that cheapen the mark, like beveled text edges, dodgy shine effects and a pointless gradient. I wonder what other options of this logo looked like, to see if there could have been a better way to integrate the ‘Cats’ word in. Speaking of the ‘Cats’, the typeface choice looks a lot like a Windows system font, which in and of itself doesn’t really help to distinguish a point of difference for the club, but that is a fairly minor complaint.

In conclusion the new logos bring Geelong into the modern era visually, while behind the scenes they keep kicking goals which will only make the Geelong Cats a powerhouse club for years to come.

Logo Review: Fremantle Dockers

Even as a recent St Kilda supporter, I do feel for Fremantle supporters. In the 17 seasons since their birth, their highest end-of-season ladder position is 3rd, they’ve only reached 4 finals series, their longest losing streak doubles that of their longest winning streak, and only once have they reached a preliminary final. No matter which way you cut it they are some very uninspiring results, so it probably wasn’t surprising that so early on into the Dockers history they decided to rebrand.

Fremantle Dockers Old Logo
The old tri-colour logo

The previous logo and brand was very unique, but the colour combination was never attractive. The logo fell on the side of traditional but not functional, though not to the extent of the Collingwood mark.

Thankfully with the rebrand being more recent, there’s more information about the process out there and the press release from FremantleFC.com.au gives us fantastic insight into the process. More than 2900 members took part in a brand audit survey which informed the studio (Block – a Perth based studio) and the club in their decision making.

From looking at the two logos side by side you’d be hard pressed to say the old mark was better. Where the previous logo was traditional but not functional, the new one is both traditional (a la Carlton), functional (incredibly easy to notice at any size), but it’s also very modern. This feels like a grown up rebrand that appeals to adults while not alienating the kids. The ‘Dockers’ text has some interesting Museo-like serifs (see ‘K’ and ‘R’ but overall it works well.

My only complaints about the rebrand regard the uniform application and the top part of the crest. Using the D-Anchor icon front and centre may have come across as derivative of Carlton, but surely that would have meant more than the seemingly meaningless chevrons which draw similarities to Melbourne Victory. Either that or a nod to the past could have been achieved by using the anchor shape from the previous uniform. For my other minor complaint: the Est.1994 curved crest top which tries to add a bit more heritage to the brand up just ends up looking a bit awkward.

The Melbourne Victory Home Uniform

While Freo’s on-field results have never really been that exciting, this is a rebrand that is both radical and successful and with a doubling of merchandise sales you’d have to say the majority of Dockers fans agree.

Essendon Bombers Football Club Logo Evolution

Logo Review: Essendon Bombers

When my family moved to the state of Victoria from the Rugby League heartland of Newcastle, the first family we became friends with were mad Essendon supporters. Through that family I was introduced to the game of Australian Rules, and even though I didn’t stick with my support of the Bombers (my family became St Kilda supporters, and I was dragged into it!) I still look back at that time fondly.

The old Bombers logo (from pre-AFL times)
The old Bombers logo (from pre-AFL times)

The latest Bombers logo which was introduced back in the late 90s (sometime between 1996 and 1999, the information on the web is sketchy) would have made for quite a controversy back in the day because it is a huge leap from the previous shield logo which had been in use for some time. If the same leap had been made today, you’d be able to expect a change.org petition and facebook groups all clamouring to destroy the new logo. Never before has people power been so influential, and never before has complaining in public been so easy. Even now, with the current logo aging incredibly well for the 15 years its been around, there is still a facebook group asking for the bomber plane to be flying
up in order to match the team song. As they say, you can’t please everybody (and isn’t a swooping plane much more fear-inducing?).

One reason for the rebrand may have been to move away from the VFL feel of the logo, but as in past posts I’ve noted that a couple of teams have aimed for a family friendly or kid focused logo, and that may have come into play with the EFC logo. The main thought I have about that is while it’s a legitimate reason for rebranding, children like myself back in the mid-90s didn’t care about the logo. Kids care about the players and most of all they love replicating their heroes deeds in the backyard. They honestly do not care about the colours or the logo. They love the experience of going to the game, and the family-and-friend time that comes with it.

As they grow up and become adults, grown AFL supporters come to love the Australian-centric nature of the game, which is why many turn their back on U.S. style logos. Is it because they don’t want their club to feel like a corporation? Do they want to keep the history of the community strong? Or is it just an old-fashioned reason that is resistant to all forms of change?

The problem with any protest here is that there really isn’t anything legitimate to complain about. With clean lines, bold colours and a modern feel (15 years old and still looks as fresh as ever!), the menacing bomber mascot and custom type above it is the sort of modernisation that should have won over both kids and adults alike. In my mind it is the best of the modern AFL logos. The plane shape gives it a slight shield-like appearance while the two-tone grey outline gives it a 3-dimensional yet completely tasteful effect.

If I can be a little bit picky, the one thing I would change is the black and white nose, which is a needless palette change from the rest of the mascot.

Now to come back to the topic of brand changes in the Aussie Rules market; the Brisbane Lions complex research phase and market testing feedback lead to a public backlash (though predominantly from non-members). So should clubs focus on making only minor changes to avoid supporter backlash, or should they feel free to make bolder moves to match their corporate vision? It’ll never be an exact science, but I can bet that those on each side of the fence will always find it difficult to relate to the other’s point of view. That will always be the challenge of the board, and more importantly for the designer.

Collingwood Football Club Logo

Logo Review: Collingwood Magpies

The Collingwood Magpies boast the largest membership numbers of any club in any sport in Australia, are the 3rd most successful club in premierships in the VFL/AFL, but have played in more grand finals than any other club, averaging a grand final position every 3 or so years.

Collingwood has also earned the accolade of ‘Most Polarising Club’ in the AFL, especially in Melbourne where Magpies supporters are the most derided of any club. The reasons behind the polarisation are many, but it is common for an Australian Rules supporter to say they follow their “team, and anyone playing the Magpies”.

Following my previous post regarding the most important parts of a team’s visual brand, in Collingwood you can see quite clearly the proof of what really matters to a team and its supporters. The Collingwood emblem is too complicated to use in most situations which means that the name, the mascot and the colours all rise in importance (I can see a similarity between the Magpies logo and the Australian Coat of Arms in this, both being official symbols of their respective entities).

The Australian Coat of Arms
The Australian Coat of Arms

My research into the history of the emblem has turned up empty handed as to the year of the emblem’s introduction, my guess is when the competition changed from the VFL to the AFL.

The Emblem

As I said earlier, the emblem is much too complicated to replicate at small sizes. To see this in effect, head to the AFL website and try to make sense of the tiny logo at the top, where the difference in effectiveness at small sizes is no more contrasting than between the Carlton monogram and Collingwood emblem.
Apart from the replication issues, the emblem is clever in tying in patriotism and a sense of tradition or history that appeals so well to Aussie Rules supporters. These patriotic ties are evident in the choice of the mascot (the Australian magpie) and the use of the Australian flag.

Not only is the addition of the Australian flag in the emblem rare, it is also interesting to note that it is one of the rarer examples of the mascot’s natural colours being used as the only colours in the brand (the others in the AFL being Richmond and to a lesser extent Adelaide and the Hawks).

All of these elements combine to make a fairly literal and traditional logo. While it’s not very functional as far as logos go, it does communicate a rich and uniquely Australian story and lets the rest of the branding elements do the heavy lifting.