What’s in a Logo?

The news hit last Friday night that MK Lightning were set for a facelift. During a technically sketchy Facebook live press release, the new MK Lightning concept was released to the fans, much, it seemed to the annoyance of the followers.

Should we care? After all, we’re not the owners. We’re not the ones spending really big bucks trying to take the club to the next level whilst simultaneously embarking on a maiden season in the Elite league.

One thing that needs to be understood is that the psychology behind supporting a team is the wholehearted nature fans commit to a sports club. The recent failed attempt of Cardiff City to convert the “Bluebirds” to the red dragons, overhauling a club’s history because the new Chinese owners preferred red because in Chinese culture red is considered lucky is a great example of how misguided it can be to alter a club identity.

I mean Hull City are still unable to change their name to Hull Tigers because the fans are too connected to the heritage of what they already know.

Obviously both of those examples are football related ones. Not necessarily more partisan than ice hockey fans, but the clubs are a lot more established that in ice hockey. But it serves as glance at the troubles that can be faced with a “re-brand”.

 

The Change

MK_Logo_New [1]

That’s it, it’s pretty simple as sports logos go. A lightning “strike” made up of the letters M and K. No hockey stick, no circle to indicate a puck, just the letters.  It can be joined by a fuller design that reads MK Lightning, using a jazzy new font, as seen below:

MK-LIGHTNING-NEW-[1]

I will concede I do like the new type face for the name. There’s a speed and a cutting edge to it that I like, it is just let down horrendously by that logo.  It also appears to come with updated colours. Is it purple? Is it navy blue, I can’t quite tell, and neither can the MKL social channels, officially it looks purple, but the MKL supporters twitter one is blue.  Which is it? I hope it’s not purple and can feel myself rocking in my chair chanting “Please, not purple” like some weird mantra!

Out with the Old

MK_Logo_New

I understand what someone said about this logo looking a little childlike.  I understand that immaturity, but if you look at some of the other Elite team logos, they’re no better.  I’m not saying that makes it alright, for sure it could be improved. Another thing I don’t understand about the logo is how the team colours of blue and white with gold and black trim are derived. There’s no blue in the logo.

But despite all that, it’s like Ronseal, or Catchphrase, it does what it says on the tin.  A circle to denote a puck, a big ass lightning strike with a banner that screams Lightning.  If you asked me, without knowing what I was looking at and ask me what this was a logo for I could tell you that it would be for an ice hockey team.  I like it because it’s effortless.  It hasn’t been designed by a corporate agency, you can tell what it’s for and on the jerseys, on banners it looks great.

 

Other Examples of Club Logos

Take a look at the other Elite League club logo’s. is the new one more professional, yes. Is that a good thing, no. it doesn’t look professional in a “we’re a well-run, major league player” way.  It looks professional in a “this has been designed to the hilt” sort of a way, and that’s not a good thing.  The logo just isn’t fun compared to the others, it lacks any warmth to the sport and industry they’re in.

EIHLTeamLogos[1]

 

Personal Preference

Personally speaking, I am not a fan of the change. Would I go as far as hate it? I can’t answer that. To me it in no way says ice hockey. You just need to look at the other hockey logos I’ve shown above to see that it just doesn’t fit in that arena.

It looks incredibly corporate, especially the way they have tried making the M and K shape into a spark.  But that in itself is a problem, we are Lightning and the shape produced lacks any drama or punch, both of which you should associated with ice hockey and with the Lightning in particular. I think would be pretty neat for a Milton Keynes based company, maybe electricians? Rapid delivery courier?

It’s as if the new owners saw the opportunity for change and took it without regard for their customers, the fans. Usually rebrands take months and months to get right, this seems to have been done on whim.

We want something that says MK and Lightning that is really modern

The design job passed to someone in their early twenties who’s never seen an ice hockey game, or realised that Milton Keynes has an ice hockey team.

 

All Shade of Wrong

Where I think the new owners went wrong was with the approach they took. For me, there are two ways they could have gone about it:

  1. Tweak the current (last season) logo to maybe polish it up a little, make it a little more becoming for an Elite league club, but keep the fundamentals the same. Personally, I would update the colours, choosing ones that fit with the uniform a little more and remove the white ‘shimmer’ on the gold elements.
  1. The other approach would have been to involve fans. Firstly, their opinions on a change of image so you could assess to see if it was something that was even wanted. Then, if enough of a consensus was there, get fans to design the new logo, or pick from a range of designs. Get the fans invested in the image of the club and it goes a long way in helping to make wholesale changes.

Launching a new image on an unsuspecting public was never going to go well. Most people online at the time were either expecting a new signing or the release of the new shirt.

What I found quite astonishing as a new hockey fan was that the Lightning logo had only been around 3 years from a previous update. How can the owners expect fans to truly commit to a club if they’re just going to shift the identity from pillar to post?

The new branding was described as contemporary. It certainly is. Maybe too contemporary. What I mean by that is that if you’re choosing an ultra-modern look and feel for branding it’s likely to need alternations a lot quicker as it can date more quickly.  Pick a concept that is not necessarily tried and trusted, because that by definition is old, but choose a concept that will stand the test of time, the fans can be proud of and will last longer than 3 years!

This isn’t a modern hipster ad agency in trendy Shoreditch, this is Milton Keynes. We have our own identity as a city and MKL have their own identity as a team, use that as inspiration for change and get the fans to make that change, that’s what makes the club stronger.

 

One City

A potential reason for the change, could be the notion of trying to take the club to the next level by aligning its branding to that of the city’s football club, MK Dons. Similarities can be easily drawn between the two designs, so maybe the owners have been canny or have something up their sleeves that will allow the club to catapult itself onto the next level by becoming part of a city identity? The only thing I would say about that, is why wouldn’t the logo be more alike the Dons’ logo with a lightning strike running through it?

MK_Dons v lightning

I quite like the idea of “One City”, something that connects everyone, regardless of the local team, there is something that links them all.

 

Final Thoughts

Will it stop me going to matches? No, definitely not. It’s not going to impact on what I will see or the ability on the players to perform. Will it stop me buying merchandise? Definitely. What is the point in me investing my hard earned money into merchandise that could be obsolete on 2 or 3 years? I buy a football shirt (Birmingham City for those new to this blog) every year, but I know the fundamentals of that shirt never change and the badge certainly doesn’t.  The badge has been going at the club since 1976 after a competition for fans to redesign a few years earlier, but has seen minor tweaks along the way.

I just do not see what is gained by the new owners in rebranding the team.  Our recent successes in the cup and playoffs cannot be rebranded, the fans have a connection to the now defunct branding, so why change? It cannot just simply be a desire by the owners to demonstrate their arrival and authority over the Lightning? Because if that’s the case, that doesn’t scream to me “intelligent owners”, that suggests plaything which will be bad for MKL in the long term.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s my problem. My ability to cope with change? Being a football fan for so long I can only support one way? Whatever the issue, I am going to struggle to engage with the new branding simply as I cannot acknowledge it as a legitimate sporting logo. I mean, how weak is centre ice going to look with that crumby new MK spark in it?

This is just personal opinion. It holds no sway with the powers that be and they are the ones in control as owners. It’s their entity to do with it exactly what they see fit and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

I can however, not wait for the new season to get underway and see all the new guys take to the ice for the first time.

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