Seattle Seahawks Alternate Logo: A Disturbing Perspective
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS ALTERNATE LOGO
INDUSTRY: PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL
PRIMARY AND ALTERNATE LOGO COMPARISON
"Last week, the Seattle Seahawks unveiled a new “head-on” alternate logo. A look that the team describes as "face-to-beak" in a Facebook post that officially announced the introduction. The new logo has been getting, at best, mixed reviews. Scary, creepy, and weird have been used by some to describe the new addition to the visual identity. We look at it from a different perspective.”
The Seattle Seahawks have had their current logo and color scheme since the team unveiled its new Nike-designed uniforms in 2012. As the primary logo enters its 6th NFL season, the addition of an alternate logo seems most likely to be an attempt extend merchandising opportunities. The team has started to sell products and apparel with the new logo in their official team stores. However, there are no current plans to make it part of the official on-field gear.
A front facing version of a sports team logo is nothing new. Bulls, Bears, Bucks…we’ve seen them all. But illustrating a bird, beak-first, can be a dangerous decision. We too often view those logos through the lens of cartoon illustrations that have exaggerated the avian characteristics to the point of mockery. But the new Seahawks alternate logo is actually an authentic portrayal of the primary logo. And, the alternate logo does a good job — maybe better than the primary logo — of reminding us that the Seahawk’s identity is derived from the Northwest’s Native American culture and the totem poles that depict that heritage. On that level, I think it succeeds.
Is it a little visual unsettling? Perhaps. But the underlying question is, "Why a front-view as an alternate logo?" Fair question. That question has been amplified in the way the logo has been introduced – a stand alone icon. As simply a floating-head it loses some of that totem connection, and feels like it needs some further exploration and answers. How will the icon interact with the primary logotype? Will it use a shortened version of that logotype? What are the limits (if any) of when/where it’s applied? It is presented as just an illustration, not an integrated part of the visual identity.
Another head-scratcher, as highlighted in an article by Forbes, is the timing of the rollout:
They (teams) normally unveil the new logo well in advance of the upcoming regular season. The most typical time to see a new logo revealed is somewhere around draft time. There's no better way to showcase a new logo than to have one of your promising young prospects show it off right after you've selected them.
Well, the obvious answer to that is that a new logo is generally tied to a complete new branding scheme. New uniforms, new helmets, new official sideline gear. In short, a new visual direction for the team brand. And an alternate logo may be part of that new scheme.
So why a rollout that includes national TV coverage and social media campaign for an alternate logo?Simply put, Cha-ching! The introduction of the Seahawk's alternate logo feels manipulative – as purely a marketing and merchandising ploy. The Seahawks had a secondary logo previously that very few outside their most loyal fans, and logo-obsessed designers, were aware. They didn’t have that previous version prominently displayed on sideline apparel or in their team store. And the new version of the logo won't be appearing on uniforms or helmets, and it won’t do anything to help the fans (brand enthusiasts) become more tied to the brand the way a new sports team logo usually does. What it will do is open new opportunities to sell branded products. And true Seahawk's fans will probably eat it up.
MERCHANDISE IN THE SEAHAWK'S TEAM STORE
As you see, I’m not as disparaging of the icon itself as many on Twitter and other social media are. Yes, the secondary applications need to be defined, and the logo more fully explored, and once that is done, maybe there will be some logic in the new addition. What is more disturbing than the execution is that it doesn't feel like it was designed primarily to enhance and clarify the brand. Without articulating how the new icon fits into the overall brand strategy, it just feels like a cheap way to exploit devoted fans.