Branding exists everywhere, all around us, wherever we go. We usually don’t notice how redundancy and advertisements influence our choices and preferences. Why am I a fan of Nike’s Air Jordans? I could argue that I like the aesthetic of the products associated with the brand, however, I’ve got to admit, the brand plays a major role in swaying my preference. The iconic Jumpman badge on a sneaker instantly elevates it to a whole other level (at least for me); not because it makes it look better, but simply because it is now associated with Michael Jordan.
In this essay, I want to explore a specific category of design and branding that moves millions of people around the globe. With the football World Cup right around the corner, it is a great time to analyze how football clubs create and maintain their image by incorporating distinguishable details in their jersey/kit designs and how it connects to their logo/brand identity.
Club of the Culers
FC Barcelona – is considered by many (including myself) to be the best football club in the world. Their stellar academy has produced talents like Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and many more as they went on to win countless titles over the long history of the Spanish club. What is the first image that you would associate with FC Barcelona? A splash of red and blue.
Regardless of the design changes that have taken place over the years, the club has stuck to its traditional Barcelona colors all the time. Although the shades of red and blue used tend to vary at times, the colors still resonate with the club’s badge, making the kits instantly recognizable. Their kit evolution highlights how different patterns or designs can be adapted to a style or image with the use of appropriate colors and details.
There is no way I could get away with mentioning Barcelona without including their fierce rivals, Real Madrid, in my essay. There is no denying that they have earned the nickname “Los Blancos” or “The Whites” due to their iconic jersey. As the kit evolution image shows below, Real Madrid has always maintained a white base for their shirts, while tinkering with the minor details like the collars or stripes around the edges. The yellow and blue detailing also stems from their club’s badge which has been a pain-inducing sight for Barcelona fans around the world. Furthermore, Real Madrid’s badge (or logo) has drastically changed. Compared to the original iteration which only had a simple “FCM”, the current logo features details like the crown as well as additional colors to showcase the club’s decorated history. The brand allows its fans to feel a sense of “royalty” even during seasons when their team fails to win any trophies.
The Old Lady… and Newcastle
I’m sure Professor Goffredo would be disappointed if I hadn’t mentioned an Italian club. Juventus, nicknamed “the old lady”, is one of the most well-known teams in Italy, along with Roma, Milan, Inter, and Napoli. The main reason why I have decided to include Juventus in this list, however, is to show that design complications occur in the field of football as well. The first image below shows Juventus’ kits over the years.
The second photo above, although looks almost exactly like the Juventus counterpart, features kits from an English Premier League club called Newcastle United. Unless you look closely and notice the badge or the Italian flag that is presented on some iterations of the Juventus kits, there is no way you can tell the two teams apart (hence the invention of second and third kits). Both teams feature black and white stripes of varying weights, though Juventus is a more well-known club due to their relatively more successful history.
We need to realize that the “familiarity principle” plays a very important role in our lives without us realizing it. Football clubs, along with many other brands, make use of the same logic to attract strong fan bases, which in return generates a lot of money for the company (through advertisements, merchandise sales, etc).
Furthermore, an essential part of creating a sense of belonging with the fans is not altering the team’s identity drastically to the point where it loses its appeal. Clubs almost always maintain the same badge (with minor adjustments) and set a color scheme to associate their team with.
Things tend to get complicated for non-football fans when multiple teams end up with a very similarly designed kit. Is that Newcastle United or Juventus playing? You can’t tell the difference unless you pay attention to the scoreline.
In a nutshell, branding is everywhere. It plays a bigger role in our lives than we realize. It has the power to unite people, or on the contrary, split them apart.