February 1992 was an important year for many.
Albertville, France hosted the 16thOlympic Winter Games, comedy classic Waynes World was released on Valentines Day and on the 20thFebruary the FA Premier League was founded. All fairly momentous events, but only one would go on to become the most-watched sports league in the world and the third-highest grossing league globally. It is well-known amongst both fans and critics that the Premier League generates monstrous amounts of money from lucrative TV contracts, worth £9.2 billion from 2019 - 2022, to the average Premier League first team pay of £2.99 million a year, and it is only continuing to grow.
The League kicks off this Friday 9th August and runs right through until May, with all of the twenty teams playing 38 matches each (playing all other 19 teams home and away), all culminating in the Premier League Final in May 2020. Of all of the 49 clubs that have competed since the dawn of the league, only 6 have ever claimed the title, Manchester United claiming the most with 13 trophies and a surprising Blackburn Rovers triumph in 1994/5.
But beyond the teams, players and fans there is another force at work, The Premier League Brand. With a fresh new visual identity released in 2016, and a break away from the title sponsorship that had dominated the League since 1993, the brand has come into its own and is striving to new heights with a clean, bold and contemporary look that aims to feel exciting as the game itself. The combination of sponsorship deals, broadcasting rights and clever branding has catapulted the Premier League way above any other football league in the world, so let's take a look at how they did it, and where the new branding is set to take them.
The top twenty-two clubs split away from the English Football League to form the now infamous Premier League and it enjoyed its inaugural year without any title sponsorship. A singular crowned lion had its debut as the figurehead for the League's logo and has been the consistent symbol that has grown to represent the League and the best of English football to this day.
A Lion stands with its right paw resting on a red football, the classic red, blue and white a nod to palette of the iconic FA logo. Yet the powerful symbol the Lion could have portrayed is weakened slightly by its slanted eyes giving it a concerned look, not the fierce and proud force it has come to represent in football today. Perhaps it can see the 1993 Carling sponsorship logo looming in the distance and is understandably quite scared.
As Carling took on the title sponsorship, the League became the FA Carling Premiership and a new logo graced the screens of dutiful fee-paying Sky fans everywhere. The Lion is back, admittedly without it's body which is a slight concern for anyone not familiar with the logo as it's fairly ambiguous, but the crown has stayed and the football frames them both in a more interesting take on the logo. But the rest of the logo feels unnecessary, with the Carling name taking over and the green lines just confusing the image.
All in all not a great logo but it did stand proud for three years and was slightly better than what was dreamt up for 1996.
You might think beer and football are destined to be together, but Carling dropped the ball on creativity here and didn't quite pull it off. Apart from a positive switch away from the headless lion, there isn't much to be said that's great about this logo. The Lion with his paw on the ball is back and has been placed inside a larger different coloured football, which seems perhaps an unnecessary overkill on the ball imagery. This exciting piece of clipart is racing its way out of the left of the logo to reveal what resembles a Carling beer mat from down the local. It feels sticky just to look at.
The black, yellow and red lines offer some feeling of movement and the excitement of the game but also create too much colour for one logo, with the blue and black not feeling cohesive. The whole thing resembles three separate logos that were speedily stitched together without much thought yet it did last until the 2000/1 season when Carling were replaced as sponsors and Barclayard came in to put their spin on the leagues Lion.
This is another logo that looks slightly confused, the blue Lion remains with his slanted eyes and paw firmly on the ball, but the shades of blue don't quite match and the whole thing doesn't really do enough to marry the Lion to the logo underneath. But no fear, the Barclaycard again features another more detailed football in a different colour, just incase anyone forgot what sport they were watching.
Throughout the seasons the Barclaycard logo is used without the Lion, where the balls appearance then makes more sense, but on the official badge it again looks like someone took time and thought in creating the Barclaycard logo, realised the Lion would have to feature last minute, and plonked it on top with the hope no one would notice the complete different feeling to each. At least the attempt to marry cobalt blue and black has been left in the 90s and although still quite complex, it's a welcome change from previous years.
Things are looking up, the logo looks slightly cleaner, the Lion still not quite meshing well with the Barclays logo underneath, but the darker blue looks bolder and the use of just white, shades of blue and red leads to the logo feeling more complete. Again, the Barclays logo is used alone throughout the season and is quite well designed, with the Barclay's eagle and football becoming one with a good choice of contrasting blues.
The Lion and red ball seem to have become somewhat symbolic and untouchable (apart from the slow and welcome move away from the slanted eye) and it took until 2007 for someone to dare to take a shot at redesigning the Lion that had reined for 15 years.
The Barclays Premiership is traded in for the Barclays Premier League and a slightly lighter blue, but the biggest change was the regal King of the Jungle taking a stand for the Premier League Brand. The red ball remained, but the Lion had become a stronger figure, looking directly at the viewer with an almost menacing gaze and proudly holding the ball beneath him. The use of negative space and bold lines creates a full bodied figure and impressive texture on the mane, topped with a crown that has been simplified and tops the logo off with a feeling of strength and power.
This logo lasted for 9 years and seemed to be the strongest of the lot, the new Lion a roaring success.
As the title sponsorship with Barclays came to an end and it was relegated to just the 'Official Bank' of the Premier League, it was an end to the complex logos of Premier League past and a bold decision was made to simplify the logo as much as possible for the digital age. The Premier League was on it's own for the first time since its opening year in 1992, but this time it was a choice to power forward without sponsorship and the League hired DesignStudio (with Robin Brand Consultants) to redesign not only the logo but the whole brand.
Just to look at the logo gives a taste of what the whole rebrand is working towards, which if you had to describe in one word, would be simplicity. They've stripped it down to the Lions head, taking inspiration from the most recent Lion redesign with a simple crown and it's a powerful image. It looks off to the right rather than directly at the viewer in a noble stance, making it less aggressive (but no less intense with its thick and bold lines) and the weight of the mane gives it an almost cyclical outline, which works well on the circular shirt badges.
The new visual identity of The Premier League is digital-orientated with the RGB choice of colours and use of the Lion's head everywhere from TV, to the app. But it doesn't stop there, Brand ad Creative agency DixonBaxi created a whole new TV experience for the Premier League, with show titles, in-match graphics, augmented-reality, touch-screen and studio graphics all coming together with a unique 'Field of Play' motion behaviour. This is essentially the way the colours, graphics and typography move and work together in a digital format, whether that is on your TV screen throughout the game, on the app or on promotional videos. It's a smart and forward-looking move by the League who haven't been half-hearted with their approach for the digital approach but have jumped in headfirst cutting no corners.
Another important aspect was the new typography that has been rolled out across the board, American digital typesetting and typography company Monotype were chosen to help re-design the brands visual image. Toshi Omagari worked in close partnership with DesignStudio to create a new sans serif for the Premier League that could respond quickly and that was undaunted by the need to work across a large number of mediums, from the logo to shirt numbers. Before the re-brand an all-cap typeface had been the Premier League's defining typeface, but it was decided something contemporary and friendly was needed to help the brand become visually unique and to stand out at a commercial level globally.
It's not only the brand's visual identity that has had a shake up, Official Suppliers and brands associated with the Premier League have been revised too. This year will mark the end of Carling's long association with the League, first being the title sponsor until 2001 and then the official beer from 2016-2019, it has been a long fruitful partnership for both. However the League has decided to partner up with Budweiser for the 2019/20 seasons and have also signed a deal with Coca Cola Great Britain starting in January 2019 for three and a half years. Both companies have long sponsorship records with the FIFA World Cup, with Coca Cola having a formal association since 1974 and becoming an official sponsor in 1978, and Budweiser not far behind becoming an official sponsor in 1986.
This is of note as is suggests at the League's ambitions for the global stage, and with this year having matches broadcast on Sky Sports, BT Sport, NOW TV and Amazon Prime, there are more ways to watch than ever before in the UK, that's before taking into account all the broadcasters around the globe that make up £4.2 billion of the Premier Leagues broadcasting contracts for 2019 - 2022.
So with the brands bold visuals comfortably coming into their fourth season, and a new round of sponsors and partners that reign as global giants in 2019, the Premier Leagues brand is stronger than ever before. It has only grown bigger since its 1992 debut, and although some questionable logos have featured as the face of the League, it has only gone from strength to strength and created a huge platform from which to launch itself as a global brand, in tune with the digital age.
So where next for the brand? To continue to follow viewers behaviours would seem a wise move for the brand, with a small move to Amazon Prime this season being the first step. Although the League has been inseparable from Sky since its beginnings, with subscribers to the satellite TV service declining in favour of Internet subscriptions such as Netflix, it is to be seen whether the two would ever part ways, with many fans resenting Sky for their ability to move games at little notice to match their own schedule. But as many things in the Premier League, especially if they only want to grow as a brand, it will usually boil down to money and financial gain, so it'll remain to be seen whether loyalty and its continuously growing bids keeps Sky on top, or whether another big brand is on the horizon for the beautiful game.
Indeed, as we roll into this season the brands visual identity, strong partnerships and global fan-base will undoubtedly make another successful season in the world of English football. As we kick-off on Friday it's all to play for and time for someone to knock Man City off the top spot.