The Carolina Panthers recently announced a new graphic logo design, which cleans up and streamlines the look of the 18-year-old mark. The new mark is not revolutionary, just evolutionary, along with a new stylized sans serif logotype. The changes are subtle, but refreshing and refined, almost leaning towards a more corporate feeling. Word on the street has it that the uniforms will not change, only the helmet and logo will be updated.
I can understand not needing to be overtly innovative with an NFL team’s trade dress. There is a reason that the word “fans” is an abbreviated form of “fanatical.” The pro football audience is a passionate bunch, and most wear their allegiances proudly. Any team owner would not want to alienate or distance itself from any group of fans that it counts on to fill seats on autumn Sundays. They buy the replica jerseys, the hats, and t-shirts, and want to have the latest and greatest apparel.
The NFL recently changed their uniform and apparel providers to Nike and seven apparel partners starting with the 2012 season, after a 10 year run with Reebok. Which begs the question—who was the agent of change that brought this to pass? Was it Nike, who will be sure to try and put their own stamp on the NFL come this fall? Was it the Panthers’ front office or league officials? Perhaps Nike doesn’t want all their cards on the table so soon, preferring to make a bigger splash in the fall. Perhaps Mr. Richardson felt it was time to take the next step with his franchise. We may never know.
It seems to me that the Panthers organization missed the point in updating their brand. The execution as a whole seems half baked. An updated logo that is more of a refinement. New helmets, but no new jerseys or pants. With such small changes, fans may be reluctant to shell out cash for something that has the new logo on it, as the old is still fairly relevant. Adoption of the new logo could be slow, and would then fragment the brand’s visual power.
A bolder or more determined change would help the team keep a strong visual statement. Introduce a new home game colorway, a more dramatic logo update…just something more than this. It smacks of indecision, and doesn’t drive the new branding home. It’s a nice iterative step, but a tentative step.
Football is a brazen sport, with the highest level of athletes competing to be the world champion. This seems more like Pop Warner to me.