One of my professional goals for 2011 is to see one of my team sports identity designs realized on the field. One football team based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, began to show promise but folded before it even played a snap. For the sake of the exercise and my portfolio, however, I wanted to go ahead and complete the concept. Since the quality of sport may or may not be high-caliber, a minor league franchise markets itself with two value propositions: being the "local" team, and having a fun game experience. This fun game experience draws family groups, one of their largest target markets, who may be only mildly interested in the sport, and even less invested in the franchise as a fan.
The Grand Rapids football franchise did not even have a team name when we began conversations, and the owner/coach took asked if I would come up with a few ideas. The best name actually came straight from the location itself: the state fossil of Michigan is the Mastodon.
I am almost always a proponent of alliteration in minor league or high school nicknames. (Quick sidebar for clarity's sake: the nickname in this case would be Mastodons, like St. Louis Cardinals or Chicago Bulls. The mascot is the embodiment of that nickname, like Fredbird, the red bird at St. Louis baseball games, or Benny the Bull, for Chicago's basketball.)
Since minor league and high school brands do not have the budget or equity a major league franchise does, anything that will tighten the knot between the team and the community is a plus. Remember, being "the local team" is a key value proposition. The logo is doubly-memorable if the M stands for both Michigan and Mastodons.
So the Mastadon is local, but also fun for kids. Although the illustration itself is somewhat intimidating, a large, fluffy elephant-like mascot on the sideline is great for young kids. And what's great for young kids is great for their parents.
For sports franchises there can be many levels of brand elements, like a primary logo, a secondary logo, a character illustration, a "text-only" logo, an initial, etc.; all these elements constitute a family of marks. The primary logo is often used as the helmet decal.
For this particular project, there is just a primary and secondary mark, with no custom text. A universal brand design would include a complete alphabet, including numbers for the jerseys.
Home and Away Jerseys
Sound off in the comments with some of your favorite minor league sports brands. What is exciting and/or endearing about them?