September 18, 2014
By Charles Cuttone
With bland logo, MLS is a blank slate
In unveiling a new logo on Thursday, part of the launch of a new version of a video game, Major League Soccer hopes to connect with its core audience, millennials.
While no one ever went to a sporting event because the league had a "cool" logo, or stayed away from one because its logo was stale and stodgy, what the unveiling of the new logo says to me is MLS is not comfortable in its own skin. One of the traditional knocks on soccer has been that it’s boring. Now it seems MLS is trying to reinforce the notion with a boring logo that looks like a third grader with a box of crayons needs to finish it. Even the typography, what little there is, is bland.
Now, I know I am not the audience the league is trying to attract. I'm sold on the game, maybe moreso than on the league, and until today, I never really thought much about the logo. It says soccer, it has some motion, it looks good on the binders of media guides that sit in my library and on the handful of trinkets I've picked up at league events over the years. It has evolved some since the league was first announced in 1994, and that's ok. The NFL's iconic shield has remained largely the same since the fifties, with a few tweaks here and there. They didn't change the colors to hot pink or a spectrum of tie-dye in the 60s because that would maybe appeal to a new generation.
No, it was the game on the field that went through a more evolutionary stage. How the games were presented, how they were packaged for TV and how the league managed to market the club logos and it big name players from Joe Namath to Joe Montana to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Don Garber of all people should know this - after all he spent more than a decade working for the NFL.
The quote from MLS Chief Marketing Officer Howard Handler in the league press release announcing the new logo, serves to explain the move. "In the last 18 months, we have introduced new teams, new soccer-specific stadiums, an eight year, multi-million dollar media rights partnership, and our owners have made significant investments to sign world-class athletes. Together, these elements have led to the realization that our current brand is no longer a proper representation of the league we are and want to become.”
The logo says to me the league is largely a blank slate, doesn't know what it is or wants to become and now needs to explain what it is to anyone who doesn't know.