Thursday, September 18, 2014

Arena Fine, New Brand, Chivas USA Shutting down. MLS News Dump

Busy news week for MLS so I thought I'd run down some of the items and give some thoughts.

It wasn't a normal MLS amount where players and coach fines are in the hundreds of dollars or low thousands. He was fined a legit amount of $20k. In a Washington Post report Arena said he got an email about it and then read a story up on Sports Illustrated about it.

The offending words:
“They are children, and there have to be adults in the process, and we didn’t have enough of them. I think we are back into the old days in the league where the rules are somewhat arbitrary.”
The comment doesn't warrant what is likely a near record MLS fine. Don Garber took this personally and is acting immaturely here - were this a more important league he would be fielding quite a bit of negative press. The WaPo report states that Arena has sought out legal counsel.

Somewhat surprisingly, MLS launched a new league "brand identity" at around 6 AM Eastern today. Odd time for anything. Odder still was the short press conference a few hours later unveiling it, which felt very internal-quarterly-meeting-ish.

The philosophy behind it was mostly lost to those who saw it today. MLS Chief Marketing Officer Howard Handley described it as being designed to be able to "adapt to its environment" and not be static. Neat idea and progressive idea but ultimately means it will change colors (as well as working as a single color).

Another point of interest today was the empty white space in the bottom half of the logo. If you head over to one of the three agency's sites today you'll find out sort of how they will use that space (Athletics). Handley also talks about that area as framing up the action. No doubt it will also be used for featuring sponsors / partners.

All of the ideas (even the kick stand) are fine and the philosophy is an interesting thing to apply to a league identity. Ultimately, though, these elements are normally what go into a single ad campaign and not the parent brand.

RIP 2012-2013
There is actually very recent precedent for what MLS has done. If you remember back to 2012 and when JC Penny brought in high level Apple executive Ron Johnson to help freshen up the brand. Johnson implemented some pretty radical policies and changes, among them was a new logo that replaced a longtime standby. In may ways the MLS logo is exactly the same. The same ideas and philosophies of adapting to change, environment, etc.

It failed, Johnson was removed by the board and the logo returned to the old standby.

Another interesting note about this brand unveiling today as the overall theme of #MLSnext as a meaning of moving ahead or each day being better. This idea, as with the JC Penny brand (or even Nationwide), was either ignorantly taken or completely ripped from PepsiCo and their Pepsi Next campaign.

Pepsi has long been trying (1963) to be the more youthful alternative to Coca-Cola products so over the years they've tried different campaigns to drive this home. Back in the late 1990s they introduced a "Generation Next" tagline that featured songs by the Spice Girls and Ricky Martin (ironically using David Beckham as a spokesman).

One of the most interesting things about this branding project MLS has going on is that the logo reminded me so something I would have done on my way to getting my design degree (?!) back in the late '90s. Tying this all together is Athletics use of  The Chemical Brothers' supremely 90s "Let Forever Be" in their introductory video (bottom of page).

I guess since we've pillaged the 80s, the 90s is fair game. What's funny is the 90s were a modern take on the 70s. We are collapsing in on ourselves. SAVE YOURSELF.

Yes, I have B.A. with a major in Graphic Design (and a minor in Fine Art!) - and you'll also note that had to learn another trade, ie. manufacturing - but it's for the largest retailer of posters and custom framing on the planet. So there is some carryover there. Loving it for the past decade.

MLS seems to be having a hard time finding the right fit for Los Angeles' other team in league owned "Chivas USA." With attendances at all time lows for any MLS team in history, it's not surprising.

Earlier this week Don Garber mentioned that shutting the franchise down for a year or two is on the table and then today made it sound like there may be a buyer out there somewhere. There likely is, just not one the league likes for whatever reason.

The team is broken and MLS has no one to blame but themselves. The business models of C.D. Guadalajara and MLS don't mesh and never will. This also makes the deal with NYCFC and Manchester City a head scratcher. Why would the league enter into a partnership like this again is risky, at best.

LA and other markets like NY or Chicago or the Bay Area or any major city in the US are plenty large enough to host dozens of pro teams. Just not MLS teams.

Perhaps one day MLS will get it but judging from these three items above that day is very (very) far off.

No comments: