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“Change is hard” – Los Angeles Rams refresh brand identity to mixed reception from fans

  • NFL team redesigns its logos and colors ahead of move to $5bn SoFi Stadium this year
  • Unveiling resulted in swift backlash, with Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson leading criticisms
  • Rams executives hopeful that fans will grow to appreciate new marks in the long-term

To coincide with their move to a new stadium, the Los Angeles Rams have unveiled a dramatic new look.

After returning to Los Angeles from St. Louis, Missouri, in 2016, the National Football League team are scheduled to begin play this year in their transformative new facility, the $5bn (€4.4bn) SoFi Stadium and surrounding entertainment district in Inglewood, California.

To symbolize the franchise’s fresh start in the state-of-the-art venue – which will become the world’s most expensive sports complex when it opens – the Rams have undertaken a brand refresh which includes new colors, logos, uniforms, and helmets.

The design process was a two-year effort, which involved the creative teams of the National Football League, the Rams, leading sports apparel company Nike, plus consultation with the team’s players and supporters.

The new look retains the team’s iconic horn logo, which has been a part of the franchise marks since 1941, and revives the royal blue and yellow colors, which the team played in for most of its first tenure in LA between 1946 and 1994, though now with updated tones.

“The most exciting part of this for me, and I hope for Rams fans, is it blends the best of our pasts with what we believe is the best of our future,” Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer, told ESPN.

The redesign, however, has generated a distinctly mixed reception since it was unveiled on March 23, with former Rams legend and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Eric Dickerson becoming a leading critic. Notably, Dickerson is a current Rams employee, having been appointed the team’s-vice president of business development in 2017.

“This product will hardly sell,” Dickerson told the Los Angeles Times. “It’ll sell nothing. I don’t care if it’s three years from now, it still won’t be selling because it doesn’t look good. It’s ugly…When you put out a brand-new logo and product for your team you expect it to be in the top five [to] 10 [among NFL teams] in merchandise sales, and I’m willing to bet that this will be at the very bottom. If I’m wrong, I’ll be the first one to say I’m a jackass and I’ll shut my mouth and say I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. But I’m willing to bet this will be damn near dead last in sales.”

The Rams, for their part, have not shied away from this blowback. Demoff even read aloud the top 10 mean tweets he received about the logos after a virtual telethon for local charities in relation to the coronavirus pandemic raised more than $2m.

Taking a more serious tone, Demoff also acknowledged that the Rams had led some fans down with the rebranding. But he did not say the logo would be dropped.

“While it isn’t always the easiest to hear, we value the commentary you have provided on the logo & colors,” Demoff tweeted. “We are excited about the future of our team, our brand & our stadium, but recognize we can always get better through feedback and engagement and appreciate your passion.”

With new uniforms and helmets to be unveiled in the coming weeks, Rams executives remain hopeful that the team’s fanbase will grow to love and appreciate the updated branding in time.

SportBusiness spoke to the Rams’ chief marketing officer Ronalee Zarate-Bayani about the thinking and process behind the brand refresh.

Why exactly have the Rams changed their brand identity?

When we moved back to Los Angeles a few years ago, we carried with us a combination of different marks and looks. We knew that in coming back ‘home’, our owner [Stan Kroenke] is investing in a state-of-the-art new stadium that is setting the standard for sports and entertainment worldwide. As an organization and a brand, we want to make sure that not only are we stepping into that environment to the best of ourselves. But in order to do that you have to think about what it means to represent who we are from our history, respecting our past, and what has carried us through. And how do we show and represent the future that we’re investing in, in coming back home?

It’s hard to do that when you are carrying with you a combination of many different looks. So what is that identity that takes the best of who we’ve been and carries it forward in a consistent way to represent the future?

Was there always a plan to unveil a new logo to coincide with the move to the new stadium, giving you a fixed deadline to work with?

It makes sense that if you think about the environment that we’re walking into…as a brand you want it to be the best of yourself, you want it to be what you stand for. And if you think about that, it’s not necessarily a deadline per se, but rather like any good brand you understand the environment that you’re in and are representing it appropriately.

The redesigned logos are already on new merchandise (Credit: LA Rams)

How would you describe the process to come up with the new colors and logo?

It was distinct in the sense that this is the first time that we’ve brought in numerous stakeholders all together to be part of the process. We’ve worked with the NFL creative team, the Nike internal creative team, and a global creative agency from the very beginning to build a brand foundation and from there to start to build the colors, the marks that make sense, and then go into uniform.

It was a process that was inclusive from the very beginning and all throughout that we would have numerous stakeholder interviews and conversations with focus groups and fans – fans who have been with us for numerous decades, new fans, former players, new players. All of that had input into where we were going.

The interesting thing that we found through that process was that the horns were sacrosanct. The Rams were the very first NFL team to brand helmets with painted horns, which has carried through our identity throughout the decades. That was the centerpiece we decided to anchor on. The second thing from the interviews and focus groups was there was an overwhelming love for the royal blue and yellow so that became the foundation of the colors which we worked from.

Those two things – the horns and the colors – was the base, along with our brand strategy, our brand approach and brand identity, and then bringing together great and creative minds together to look at the process from beginning to end. [This was] versus in the past, for other teams…folks would come in at different elements of the process, rather than everyone coming together from start to finish.

How the new branding will look at SoFi Stadium (Credit: LA Rams)

What do you make of the mixed fan response thus far?

Change is hard. We’ve moved as an organization and with that our identity has evolved a few times. When you change your identity in a meaningful way, it’s very hard as people identify with a certain identity. That said, I think there was a lot of thought put through it and the connective tissues and the things our fans asked for are at the center of it all.

Are you selling merchandise with the new logos already and if so, how are sales going?

Yes, we are selling online. Given the environment [in regards to the Covid-19 pandemic], I think we are going to be selling online for a while. They are going really well, definitely as expected. So we’re really excited about that.

How would you describe the new uniforms and helmets, which will be unveiled soon?

Vibrant, progressive, sleek, and a way that we’ve respected the past but also cognizant of the future.

Would you prefer to have a public unveiling for the uniforms or is that too difficult in the current climate?

As you can imagine, we’ve had some really big plans for our brand and uniform launch. The reality is we have to be nimble, which we are. We are staying abreast of the climate, day by day and week by week, to understand what is best. Of course, as an organization you want to bring your fans together and celebrate together but in the current climate we have to do what is right and what is best for our fans and our communities. If that means we will have to do it virtually, then that is what we are going to have to do. Ultimately, it’s about bringing our fans together in the best way possible.

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