Let’s do what I call the ‘Matthew McConaughey Exercise’. Close your eyes. Well, OK, read the rest of this paragraph first, and then do it. But afterwards, close your eyes, and picture yourself walking into a room. Inside the room are posters and banners of the greatest and most iconic teams in sports history. Now, open your eyes; what did you see?
What do all of these teams have in common? Sustained excellence - and iconic logos or crests that have remained largely unchanged throughout the history of the team.
Successful franchises don’t rebrand. They win and then they repeat. Over and over and over, decade after decade, spanning centuries. Franchises that don't have success will often try to freshen up their image or luck by trying to turn the page into a new era, welcoming in a new look that’s sure, they say, to translate to success on the field of play (and at the cash register).
And that takes us to our beloved Toronto FC.
A New Dawn.
A New Set Of Merchandise To Sell.
Look, first thing’s first: as Oliver Platt pointed out, the TFC logo as it currently stands, isn’t exactly the most innovative design in the history of mankind. It’s busy, it’s cluttered, and there’s an active rebellion happening against the minimalist design concept but for better or worse, it’s our crest.
Fans have bought and worn that crest on any article of clothing that MLSE can think of slapping it on for the past 10 years. We’ve bought the mugs, put up flags and adorned the corners of our home with that crest. The crest represents as much of what we love about our Toronto FC as our home at BMO Field, and the players who don the red jersey for the city and for us.
Now, after a decade of largely disappointing performances on the pitch bookended by a trip to the MLS Cup final, we’re told that A New Dawn is coming. A back to basics, simple design that takes away everything else, and emphasizes the big T. Our version of the Juventus rebrand.
This design was pushed again to fans this past week, when season-seat holders received their tickets and a free scarf. Gone is what was supposed to be a soccer scarf to be replaced with something from Frank + Oak that can be worn out and about the city.
That’s fantastic in theory, except one thing: shouldn’t a soccer scarf’s first and foremost purpose be to be worn at the place soccer is actually played? I’m sorry, but that chic piece of cloth looks like something that would be completely out of place as we march down to the stadium. It doesn’t say soccer. It’s the clothing equivalent of ‘A Man For All Seasons’. A scarf for all trades, but a master of none.
Now this isn’t completely out of the blue for MLSE; we knew this was coming once the Raptors and Maple Leafs’ rebranding occurred. There you have one franchise that, prior to its rebrand, had won exactly one playoff series in 15 years of existence, and another that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since the league decided to expand past its ‘Original Six’ teams.
A rebrand doesn’t get you wins. It doesn’t build brand strength. It doesn’t inspire loyalty. What it does, is it creates a whole new market of goods that the loyal customers don’t have and now will anxiously buy up because you can’t support a dead logo, no matter how hipster cool that might be.
It’s passed along to us as a new hope, a new day, a new beginning. But those are corporate buzzwords. It’s a new kit/hat/scarf/sticker that we don’t own, and now must purchase, or else be left out of feeling connected to our team. It’s hard to feel ‘All For One’ when you’re wearing one crest and the boys on the pitch are wearing something completely different.
You know what makes me proud as a TFC fan? Not that I have a cool scarf to wear to dinner, but to see my team play for the MLS Cup in front of it’s home fans. You know what those great teams (that I mentioned above) do to push more merchandise? They win. Then they slap on ‘World Champions’ (or something similar) and sell more shirts and paraphernalia. Year after year. Rinse and repeat.
Imagine that: 2017 MLS Cup Champion t-shirts and hats with the original Toronto FC logo (warts and all) emblazoned on it.
That’s a new dawn I can actually get excited about.