NFL Media Rebranding is Coming

For years, the brands under the NFL Media umbrella have been an inconsistent jumble of logo typefaces, icons, and layouts. On April 26, 2012, that inconsistency will be relegated to sports and branding history books when NFL Media launches a new family of consistent logos for NFL Network, NFL RedZone, NFL.com, NFL Mobile, and NFL Films. The design community is already weighing in on the rebranding effort, NFL Media is getting both good and bad feedback on its new brand logos.

NFL Media logosIt’s important to point out a few things about the NFL Media rebranding initiative before we dive into designer reactions.

First, this is a rebranding that needed to happen. The disjointed mix of logos certainly weren’t helping NFL Media create a consistent brand identity.

Second, this isn’t a rebranding that was done quickly. The National Football League spent a long time trying to develop consistent brand imagery through logo design without completely reinventing the brand.

Third, the NFL didn’t make this decision alone. Consumer market research conducted over the course of several years played a big role in the design process.

The NFL conducted both qualitative focus group sessions and online consumer panel research studies to develop the new design for the NFL Media logo family. Consumers were asked questions about the existing logos and the brand, and they viewed many images. One of the most significant things the NFL learned from this market research was that the NFL shield icon holds deep brand equity. This element had to be part of the new logo design. The resulting design for the NFL Media brands uses the popular NFL shield that consumers want and expect along with an updated version of the typeface used in the previous NFL RedZone logo.

The Reaction from the Logo Design Community

Logo designers agree on one thing related to the new NFL Media logos. They don’t like the use of the updated RedZone typeface. Many designers feel the typeface is “clunky” and “disjointed.” Considering two of the most important elements of logo design are readability and scalability, this logo design seems to barely pass both tests.

It’s also interesting to note that designers are quick to point out the similarity between the RedZone typeface and the ESPN logo typeface. For a brand that should want to differentiate itself from ESPN, the decision to use a similar typeface is surprising. You can compare the two in the image below.

NFL ESPNOn the other hand, logo designers believe that keeping the NFL shield (although not universally loved), gives the family of brands a much needed perception of brand consistency — one of the primary steps of brand building. This is a step that Budweiser either missed or ignored in its recent package redesign efforts. The same could be said of Tropicana’s rebranding disaster a few years ago that removed the iconic orange with a straw through it from all package designs. The result was a consumer backlash so powerful that Tropicana had to revert to its old package design.

Bottom-line, the new NFL Media logo designs seem to satisfy one core element of branding — consistency — but that consistency comes with a price with a clunky typeface that many designers think might squash the individual personalities of the brands in the NFL Media family.

I think the new NFL Media logos will be accepted by the consumer audience without significant problems. People don’t like change, so there will inevitably be some negative criticism when the logos launch in April. However, I expect that negativity will pass quickly. If the NFL’s research is correct (and I suspect it is), keeping the shield should diffuse any grumbling about the typeface. The shield appears to hold the brand equity for NFL Media, and it’s given a prominent position in the new brand identity. That should make consumers very happy.

What do you think of the new NFL Media logo designs? Leave a comment and share your thoughts on this rebranding effort. Love it or hate it?

Images: NFL Media, ESPN

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.