By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Jan 8, 2016) US Soccer Players – They didn’t mess it up.
Really, that’s the bar when it comes to these things, with a cantankerous American soccer public ready to pounce at the slightest hint that something is awry in the “brand positioning” of a new soccer concern. Fail to mess up, and you’ve actually succeeded.
Such is the culture in a world that delivers images to millions of eyeballs in nanoseconds. If there’s a leak (as there was in this case), you don’t even get the benefit of controlling when those millions of eyeballs view your precious image for the first time. If there’s anything to pan, lambaste, or tear down, the masses have the benefit of a head start.
It’s quite possible to mess up before anything is even official.
The “they” in question here is LAFC, the latest of the MLS not-quite-soccer teams to unveil a new crest/badge/logo as they build towards their debut as a full-fledged soccer team, probably in 2018. A quick aside. While all three words for it are accurate, it’s sometimes possible to tell which type of soccer fan someone is by which word they use. Americans who refuse to use “logo” are an especially interesting breed). The new club, which is replacing the shuttered Chivas USA in the LA market, did the unveiling at an appropriately ostentatious event on Thursday morning.
Not only did they not mess it up, they probably got it right. About as right as anyone can in this environment, anyway. The logo itself speaks to the glamorous past of Los Angeles, specifically Hollywood’s golden age, when the style of the city fit under the umbrella of “Art Deco.” It’s a simple mark, black and gold in color, that transfers well to numerous uses. It’s not complicated or busy. It doesn’t make the mistake of leaning on heavy-handed soccer imagery, an error that somehow always manages to insult the established soccer fan base rather than doing the obvious thing, and letting everyone know that the team in question played soccer.
The logo’s main feature, beyond the color, is a wing that serves as the crossbar on the letter “A.” The wing invokes the name of the city itself via an angel motif, something that not only makes easy sense, but also sets the club apart from their natural in-city rival, the Galaxy.
This is a modern soccer club, replete with all of the trappings of a modern soccer club launch. It’s unavoidable at this point in time, with the process of building the personality of the team happening so quickly and so out in the open, to avoid the appearance of being overly “marketed.” LAFC is actually a bit refreshing in that regard, since the group behind the club has never made any other claim. The most visible thing about LAFC to this point has been the hipster-ish, 20-something crew of savvy, edgy, cool kids working to carve out a bit of cache for a soccer team that doesn’t yet exist. For the traditionalist, it seems to run counter to the very spirit of the sport. To everyone else, it’s feels like watching the sausage get made.
All of that has served the team well, if the logo launch is to be any judge. The logo feels like LA. A line of gear sporting the “LA” element has all of the hallmarks of something that will catch on quickly in the region. Quite consciously, LAFC set out to create an image that will appeal not just to soccer fans, but to the group of “millennials” that might be converted into soccer fans between now and the team’s first game in 2018.
As if to hammer home the point that this whole thing is very LA, very unconventional, and very not-yet-about-the-soccer, the club also unveiled yet another part-owner at Thursday’s event. Will Ferrell, he of the youth soccer comedy “Kicking and Screaming”, is the latest addition to the long list of investors in the team. By most counts, Ferrell is the 26th person to jump onboard with LAFC, joining the likes of Mia Hamm, Tony Robbins, and Magic Johnson, just to name a few.
LAFC is already the most celebrity-backed team in MLS history. They don’t have a player signed to a contract, and yet it’s probably not wrong to argue that LAFC is blazing a trail in terms of hype and “coolness” that no other MLS team can match.
The birth of an MLS expansion franchise has very little to do with the organic, grassroots origins of the world’s most famous clubs as is possible. Always aware of how a new team will impact the league’s marketing plan and TV footprint, MLS places a team. The team then does the work, spending significant money in the process, to stand out even though it won’t actually play (or have a place to play, for that matter) for years to come. It’s artificial.
There’s no going back, though. As long as American soccer is expanding, the process will be blatantly corporate, clearly calculated. That being the case, give LAFC this much and probably a little bit more. They didn’t mess it up.
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