Badges? We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges

By Bill Thomas

Except, of course, we do. They help us to differentiate things or, in footballing terms, allow us to show our allegiance to one club or another, the crest being a central part of a club’s identity.

Every club in the world has seen its badge change down the years but often you would only notice by reference to a letterhead or maybe a match programme, for in many cases, shirts were only adorned with the crest on special occasions such as cup finals until we got to more recent times when they became woven in as integral parts of the kit.

Once that started happening, people became infinitely more sensitive to any changes, even the most subtle. Witness the uproar amongst Evertonians for example when they dispensed with the “Nil Satis Nisi Optimum” motto on their badge a couple of seasons back.

Change is rarely welcomed in pretty much anything, but never less so than by football fans who cling on to traditions, even if those traditions are, in some cases, little more than 10 minutes old.

That Everton switch was motivated in large part by the desire to get the word “Everton” back on the badge. As fans, we can barely understand that. Surely everyone knows that the Prince Rupert tower signifies Everton, why spell it out?

But the sad truth is that most people don’t, and especially not in those new frontiers that football clubs are desperate to conquer in the Far East, most notably China. Those new to football, looking for a team to adopt, want something easily identifiable. After all, across the other side of the world, why should a cockerel signify Tottenham, a cannon Arsenal, a peculiar looking bird Liverpool? They all need a name to go with it and so, over the last decade, every big club has ensured it’s got its name on the badge.

Time does not stand still though and nor, of course, are the Premier League clubs merely competing with one another. If they are looking to win new fans overseas, then they are in a global market, albeit that they have stolen a march on most, save perhaps Real Madrid and Barcelona, thanks to the competitive strength of the Premier League as a whole.

Or, if you were in marketing, you might say that they are protected by the brand identity of the Premier League.

For the world game is very much in the hands of the marketeers, who see brand creation and then the loyalty that flows from it as the way to enduring success. Which is where Juventus come in, because they have very real designs on becoming the biggest club in the world, or certainly on muscling into the territory where the big beasts like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United live.

They have recognised that they cannot do it by recourse to Serie A, not least because they’ve spent the last six years obliterating the domestic competition – and while things  are tighter this term, who is going to bet against them making it six in a row? No, Juventus’ growth has to be driven by the club itself, in isolation, altogether more difficult than doing it by allying yourself to an arch-rival, because there is no compelling competitive narrative for would be fans to engage with.

Can you do all that just by unveiling a new badge. No, of course not, whatever claptrap they might have come out with on its launch, talk of it representing a “Juventus way of living” and the like. But what it does represent is something incredibly simple and simplicity pretty often does the trick.

What we have to remember is that Juventus are not designing a badge here, not as we have thought of them in the past. They’re designing a logo, and that is a very different thing. The new “J” logo is out there to operate in the same sphere as the Nike tick, the Twitter bird, the Chanel interlocking Cs. Every time you see the letter J – or more accurately, every time the Chinese see the letter J – they want the name Juventus to come to mind.

Beyond that, they’re tapping into the young market because every kid in the world is going to be able to doodle that Juventus logo on their exercise books or on their schoolbag and, if you think back to your own youth, that was a pretty important thing to be able to do. There were even bands that you like simply because of the way the logo looked when you copied it out.

I suspect Juventus are banking on a generation of Chinese kids reacting just the same way to their new logo and so, over the years, pouring plenty of additional money into the Juventini coffers. Plenty of people have been pouring scorn on the club over the change this week, but it might well be that Juventus gets to laugh the loudest in the end.


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david@firsttouchonline.com