In Defence of the New CFL Branding and Logo

Posted by Mike Woroniak, Chief Creative Officer + Managing Partner, Arcas Advertising

The CFL unveiled a new logo for the league during the 2015 Grey Cup festivities this past weekend and its arrival has faced many negative comments and overall fan dissatisfaction with its design. First year league commissioner, Jefferey Orridge, was quoted as saying, ‘The new look takes advantage of momentum in the league with new stars and a handful of new stadiums.”

new cfl_logo

New fans may not be watching TV

Orridge also noted ‘the new identity works better in the digital age’ – where we as ad agency and brand design counsellors see how social media avatars and mobile device ads can now make easy mishmash out of older-styled symbols and wordmarks on a daily basis.

That’s why I’m giving the new logo full marks for its design and the league itself major kudos for the courage to ‘see the future’ and develop an identity that can not only work towards attracting a new fan base, but also be successful in communicating effectively in the ever-changing digital world where these ‘new fans’ are spending most of their time with their eyeballs.

Often a new logo and/or identity marks the need for a brand’s change or evolution in adapting to new economic times or competitive marketing landscapes. The CFL is no different than any other business and needs to keep bums in the seats at the stadiums or attract viewers to new future channels – like live streaming – where the games will be seen and consumed more and more.

Branding that is both heritage and future-centric

The new logo, in my opinion, also bridges the past and the future of the league quite well. The logo still feels ‘vintage’ and is in part a well-executed nod to the legacy of the league’s accomplishments thus far in its history, all while utilizing a modern format that is both hip and classic in its form. The partial football shape element is not only smart but also progressive as a bold statement that our league is different – much like the three laces depicted to suggest our ‘three down’ style of game.

What is the true Canadian content of the CFL?

Many disgruntled fans have squawked loudly about the minimization of the maple leaf – Canada’s symbol of national unity and pride. And while the leaf is now much smaller than the previous logo, it still remains part of the new logo, just in a more subtle manner.

And while maintaining our Canadian identity is always a patriotic and strongly held resolve by many of us, I don’t hear many fans discussing the ‘internationals’ who come up north via our American neighbour’s professional and college football systems to play or coach in our league – a CFL ratio recruitment legacy that actually could make an argument that the game is ‘less Canadian’ in many more ways than just the size of the maple leaf’s depiction on any new logo. (You can see the national/international ratio rules for CFL teams in the graphic below from the league’s website @ http://www.cfl.ca/page/game_rule_ratio).

It should be noted that I and many others admire and respect the numerous American players and coaches who found employment and the opportunity to further their careers with their exciting football athleticism and know-how up here in Canada – and especially those who chose to remain in our country and call it their home or second home. Their contributions over the decades have been priceless in helping make our game the game that it is today.

CFL website player ratio chart

Successful brands are more than a just logo

At the same time, we should note that a new, shiny logo does not successful branding make. The league is struggling as of late – attendance across the league has flat-lined in the past several years while TV ratings have struggled to win over new viewers and have actually fallen about 15 per cent. And with the attraction of new stadiums comes new pricing – game tickets, parking and concessions may not cost what they used to cost. Thus, the glossy shine of new facilities can be a short-lived brand advantage. Having competitive and marketing-savvy teams in each CFL market also helps.

Brand and marketing foundations need to be strategically sound

What the new logo does is lay the foundation of what we can expect for a new and hopefully successful twist on CFL marketing initiatives and tactics to help bring the game back to fan admiration levels experienced years ago. But competition is heavy. The NFL continues to creep into the Canadian football fan’s psyche and wallets – and our entertainment dollar today is stretched as consumers divvy up their spending amongst the many activities and offerings we decide upon each day.

The best advertising is a great product or service

You’ll hear me say this sentiment over and over because it is true. That’s why I say let the new CFL logo reign supreme and let’s be confident that the league’s marketing braintrust can build excitement above, within and around the logo – so it simply becomes an identifier for something we all love and revel in as football fans.

The quality of the game experience itself needs to win over the hearts, eyeballs and wallets of new fans – be it at the stadium or on a mobile device – and also in maintaining the hearts of those already established as loyal CFL enthusiasts of the brand.

The new logo and branding simply suggests we all need to embrace the change that is before us as football fans and that we also have to realize there are people paid to keep the league running as a bottomline business that provides entertainment for all of us. And that’s no easy task.

Please tweet me at @mike_go_arcas – or our advertising agency at @Arcas_Ad – and let us know what you think of the new CFL logo.  We’d love to hear from you! Or maybe not 😉

Go Riders!