The Premier League: Cartoonish Logos and Unearned Swagger

Every brand presumably fears New Logo Day. Solely because online society has an unquenchable thirst for facetiousness, a new logo can never be released without provoking a laughing and pointing response.

So, with reassuring reliability, everybody hates the new Premier League logo - or corporate identity, as they have no doubt been referring to it in the Gloucester Avenue corridors. Described as “relevant, modern and flexible” - aren’t they always - the new design is as bland, inoffensive and non-exclusionary as everything now has to be and the formerly bold lion now looks like a minor character from a Pixar film.

via PremierLeague.com

via PremierLeague.com

So be it. It’s only a logo and, to most of us, it’s of little consequence.

If there is a surprise, though, it’s that the consultants tasked with creating it were not urged to follow a more established pattern. Richard Scudamore very clearly admires the American sports model and that’s evidenced by the brand building inspiration he has - and continues to draw - from the NFL and the other elite properties on the other side of the Atlantic. His spectacularly unsuccessful 39th game initiative obviously had its roots in the International Series (the American Football games which are annual played at Wembley) and the rumoured plans for digital streaming are inspired by a service which has existed in the States for some time.

The apparently safe assumption, then, was that the Premier League’s new logo would reflect that influence and that it would it be drawn in that three-letter American style. NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL; say what you like about those individual sports and, admittedly, they’re not for everyone, but their respective logos are all very powerful. They are neat, globally recognisable, and synonymous with their organisations in a way that the Premier League’s never has been.

The native supporters would understandably have hated it, but had the logo initiated a drive towards the long-term adoption of the EPL moniker, the division’s identity would probably have become stronger internationally. It would be naff and English fans would refuse to adopt it but, as evidenced by nearly everything he does or says, Scudamore is almost completely indifferent to the tastes and preferences of match-going, domestic supporters. The league’s branding decisions aren’t made with your or I in mind, but with the intention of casting another drag net into the sporting ocean.

The intention is to place the English game at the forefront of the world’s consciousness and, given its role in that process, it’s tempting to view this new logo as a clumsy mis-step. The Premier League have created something parochial and overly-English, a cartoon drawing which has been Instagram’d with too many filters. It should have been sharp and strong and bold, and - most importantly - it needed to reinforce its identity-by-initials to the point at which it would be representative of football as a whole, not just an English league.

I don’t care and neither do you. Football is the same to us, because we support our teams first and worry about the identity of the competition second. But this is exactly the sort of incident which shows that the Premier League, as an organisation, are not quite the savvy operators they assume themselves to be. They glorify the size of their broadcasting contracts and celebrate them as personal triumphs; it’s certainly difficult to take umbrage with their governance when those growth figures are quoted. Look beyond the surface, though: the competition has swollen because of the money within and because loose morals have made it a cosy home for questionable owners. It may have been packaged and sold efficiently and, yes, Richard Scudamore has become very adept at asking for larger payments from television companies and resisting calls for cheaper ticket prices, but that in itself is not a measure of foresight or broad competence.

In nearly every other department, the league is underdeveloped. Beyond the pitch, it lags far behind the organisations it seeks to challenge and emulate. It has never archived itself properly, its secondary and tertiary programming is hopelessly basic in relative terms, and its digital assets are more befitting a county cricket club than a multinational entity. It’s admittedly a tenuous link, but the bungled logo modification is really another example of that inefficiency and lack of foresight - or, at least, the inability to capitalise on what is ultimately a rather fortuitous market position.

It’s a damning assessment, but there’s no obvious reason to believe otherwise: the Premier League has always been so enthusiastic about congratulating itself for what it is, that’s it never really paid enough attention to what it could be.