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The LA Clippers Rebrand: A Design Critique

When committees get into a boardroom together and discuss what they'd 'like' to see in a logo, you get the LA Clippers pathetic excuse for a 'brand'.

In late February, the LA Clippers unveiled their surprise rebrand, coinciding with the opening of their new stadium for the 2024-2025 NBA season. This move sparked discussions not only about design aesthetics but also about the broader implications for the team's identity and fan engagement. The rebrand raises several critical considerations regarding design, investment, and overall impact on the team's image and fan engagement.

La Clippers Rebrand Context and Investment

The rebrand decision is part of a larger trend of significant investments in Los Angeles' sporting industry. With rivalries intensifying across major sports teams like the Lakers v. Clippers (basketball), Dodgers v. Angels (baseball), Rams v. Chargers (football), LA FC v. LA Galaxy (soccer), and A Kings v. Anaheim Ducks (hockey), the Clippers are striving to boost ticket sales, expand their fan base, and drive tourism revenue.

Clippers’s New Brand: A Missed Opportunity

The centerpiece of any rebrand is its visual identity, particularly the logo. Unfortunately, the new LA Clippers logo falls short of expectations. It appears to be designed by committee, lacking coherence and clarity. The inclusion of a clipper ship, a basketball, and compass rose, and the letter “C” results in a cluttered and confusing mark that fails to resonate with fans or convey a distinct brand identity.

Delving into the history of the LA Clippers provides insights into the design brief behind the rebrand. Interestingly, the term "Clipper" refers to a large ship designed for speed regardless of material or labor costs, reflecting a metaphor for LA's financial landscape – expensive but fast-paced. I honestly thought it was a barbershop/grassroots basketball group that made it to the top. Oh well. Regardless, I suppose that justifies the “ship”, though antiquated and poorly rendered.

LA Clippers New Logo Breakdown

The Biggest Shortcoming: Brand Expansion

One of the most glaring shortcomings of the LA Clippers rebrand is the absence of clear brand identity systems and guidelines. A successful rebrand should extend seamlessly across all media channels, from websites to social media posts, creating a cohesive brand experience. However, the Clippers' rebrand lacks the necessary cohesion to make a lasting impact.

All they’ve managed to do with this new ‘brand’ is replace one failing logo (with a ton of potential) with a new, worse logo that has no expansive promise, nor inherent potential. This is what commonly happens when someone sitting in a board room says, “I’m tired of this old logo, I think it would be cool if…” and then steamrolls a high-achieving creative team, or bends a poor creative team to their will. 

Missed Opportunities and Comparison

Comparisons with successful rebrands, such as the LA Rams and Inter Miami, further highlight the shortcomings of the LA Clippers' efforts. Both teams have effectively leveraged their brand identities to enhance fan engagement and strengthen their presence in their respective leagues. In contrast, the Clippers' rebrand feels rushed and devoid of strategic vision, failing to capitalize on its potential.

The Path Forward: Brand Investment

Over and over again, large sporting organizations are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on players, stadiums, and broadcasting contracts, yet neglecting to invest in their actual brands. As Nick Cooper, Global Executive Director of Brand Performance at Landor, says, 

Building up brand over the long term enables short-term activation to be effective.

In effect, major brands are investing heavily into their demand generation (players, stadiums, advertisements, etc.) and constantly seeing an impact dropoff once the activity has ended. In contrast, when companies invest in their brand (the right way), their demand generation efforts resonate for much longer and pay dividends over time.

Demand Generation based on Brand Effectiveness

The LA Clippers rebrand should serve as a cautionary tale for sports franchises looking to refresh their brand identities in a cheap, meaningless way. It underscores the importance of investing in professional design teams and developing a clear brand strategy to achieve long-term success. For organizations considering a brand refresh, careful planning, and foresight are essential to avoid falling into the same pitfalls as the Clippers.

The LA Clippers rebrand serves as a reminder of the importance of thoughtful design and strategic branding in sports. By learning from its shortcomings and adopting a more comprehensive approach to branding, sports franchises can position themselves for success and create lasting connections with their fans.

If you're looking to do a brand refresh, let me help you do it better than the LA Clippers have done. Let’s build a brand with more foresight, a stronger brand core and purpose, and a better-defined brand strategy that will give you a return on investment instead of just keeping you mediocre. Schedule a call and let's talk about your brand project.

Kaleb Dean
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