The best league, the best branding, the Premier League returns


It’s back. It’s finally back. The Premier League kicks off again on Wednesday 17th June. Do I care that it is struggling Aston Villa and the surprise package of Sheffield United when my loyalties lie elsewhere? No, I simply don’t. Even if it was Spurs v Norwich I’d still be excited, and that’s saying something being a Chelsea fan from Suffolk. And while next season is going to be even better with that Pulisic/Werner/Abraham/Ziyech combination, there’s still a season to finish. A title to decide (a slip up on par with Stevie G’s will make for an exciting finale), a battle for top 4 and relegation dogfights bring the league back to life. Anyway, I should focus, this isn’t a blog about the Premier League (apparently that wouldn’t be on brand for a website design and marketing agency, although I beg to differ). Instead, with the football restart around the corner, I’m going to be looking at the design and branding of the Premier League and give club badges a brief look along the way too.

The Premier League branding is slick. It’s stylish. I bloody love it. For something that is known by 20 football teams and just it’s name, it doesn’t necessarily need such a pretty face, but put this branding on the third tier of French football and I’m interested in the league. The Premier League is the best league in the world after all and the branding reflects it. (There really is no argument, it’s no farmers league).

Following the end of the title sponsorship from Barclays, prior to the start of the 16/17 season, the Premier League was in need of a new identity, their own identity. Now, the old logo (above) wasn’t exactly bad, sure it was detailed and had a Barclays feel to it, but it was limited and even without the removal of the sponsorship title was in dire need of a rebrand. It was basic and restrictive. It was about to become so much more.

The Premier League. Passion. Excitement. Culture. Heritage. The players make the teams but the fans; the fans make the club and the league what they are. DesignStudio, the team behind the league rebrand went with the creative proposition ‘We All Make It’ and I couldn’t put it better myself.

The rebrand had to be visually appealing and accessible to everyone and Design Studio succeeded in doing that. The new branding is fun, vibrant and expansive, proving just how good and useful branding can be when the parameters aren’t as tight as the 04/05 Chelsea back line (Ferreira, Carvalho, JT, Cole). The old branding felt patriotic, it was red, white and blue after all, not necessarily a bad thing, but then does it also better suit the teams wearing those colours? Potentially. The new branding cut all ties to Britain and the clubs in the league. The Premier League might owe its identity in part to the likes of United, Chelsea and Liverpool, but it is still it’s own brand and has its own colour palette and a vibrant palette at that. Is there a problem with the vibrance? Only time will tell, currently it’s modern, in trend and has that ‘appy’ feel.

Then there is the logo itself. They’ve taken the old Lion and simplified it into a striking portrait that makes great use of negative space. It’s only been a few seasons, but that is already the established face of the Premier League. Like the colour palette, it’s modern and trendy, not to mention perfect for the website, app and social media. The brand has gone digital, no longer is it just a badge on a sleeve.

Branding can cover all manner of things. Anyone who says it’s just a logo can walk straight down the tunnel and take an early bath. Logo, logo usage, colours, shades, typefaces, font usage, font pairings, image treatment, patterns, icons, brand values, social media guidelines, alternatives for all, thorough brand guidelines can include all those and more. The last thing on the Premier League branding I want to touch on is the patterns, they’re just so snazzy and cool. Check out the image below from the branding release. It’s instantly eye catching, instantly recognisable. These have been put to good use too, appearing on the Premier League website, print material, adverts (static and video) and the app, where they work with some slick animation.

What I’m trying to say is that the best league in the world, has the best league branding in the world. That old football rivalry of England and Germany? The Bundesliga branding might as well shine the Premier League’s boots. It’s basic. Sure it does the job, but Frank Nouble does the job at Colchester United, just not to the same degree as Sergio Aguero might do.

And with a segue as bad as the One Show’s, that leads me onto club branding, starting with Aguero’s club, Manchester City. In 2015, City released their new club badge (so not long after they were founded, is what I would be saying if I wanted to have a dig at a City fan). The old club crest was replaced with a circular design.

It’s quite a drastic change and while we can all agree the new one looks modern and clean, it angered some City fans with calls of it looking like the Blue Peter Badge and others not happy about it changing at all. I can understand that, the club crest is a team’s history and heritage. Players and managers come and go, but the club and what it means shouldn’t. Notably, they dropped the FC from the new logo. No longer just a football club, Manchester City is the brand name.

It wasn’t that long ago that Tottenham Hotspur also simplified their club crest, ditching the name and going symbol only, it’s not had a complete redesign, so it works. West Ham too, made changes to their badge when they moved to the Olympic Park, which does make sense, but a little like the City badge, it’s modern and flat, losing the heritage the old badge evoked.

Now, I can’t touch on club crests without referencing Arsenal. I know, I know, how can I mention Spurs and Arsenal when London is blue? Anyway, Arsenal were one of the first major English teams to modernise their club crest in 2002. It was mocked and laughed at (much like some of their performances) due to its significant difference to the norm. But it was modern and clean and it wasn’t long until other clubs took note and since then we’ve seen just about every club in England’s top 4 leagues follow a similar approach. The days of sketchy, detailed club crests are long gone and I doubt it will be long until Arsenal do a Spurs and ditch the name and just go with their symbolic cannon (or do a Spurs and bottle it).

And there you have it, if you’ve learnt anything from this it’s that the Premier League’s rebrand from a few years ago was spot on and the right thing to do, keeping the league appealing and welcoming to all. And at the opposite end of the table we have the clubs in that very league. A few changes to their logo are good and modernising their branding is great to ensure they remain accessible online, in print and on social media. But the message? Don’t change your club badge for the sake of it. A football club has an identity and a history that the die-hard fans will know about. Yes, I’ve often heard Chelsea have no history. 1970 FA Cup final. That kit. That badge. Retro. Class. I’d welcome that back any day.