With 31 Serie A titles, two champions leagues and 22million fans, Juventus is one of the oldest, most well-known football clubs in the world. But this week they unveiled something distinctly new.
Teams change crests all the time – Man City, West Ham and Aston Villa have all done so this season. But by and large when they do it’s a simple modernisation – a way of ensuring that the identity of the club reflects contemporary design principles.
But this latest rebrand from the Italian champions feels different. It’s not hard to see why. Gone is the oval, the black and white stripes, the golden band, the stars, the bull – in its place, a minimalist J divided by two white stripes. It’s a transformation rather than an evolution.
Initial reviews have been mixed, which poses the question – is Juve’s new crest a sign of things to come or simply a step too far?
The argument for
It hurts to admit this as a football fan, but the modern game is less of a game and more of a business. Whether it’s sponsorships, gazillion pound transfers, kit deals or eye-watering player salaries, money (unless you’re Leicester City) is now paramount to success.
So if football is becoming more and more commercial, why shouldn’t Juve treat their brand just like a business would? Perhaps they believe a new logo will help to usher in a new era – new fans, new players, new revenues, and obviously, a new club culture.
But what was wrong with the old culture? It definitely wasn’t holding Juve back on the pitch. Their position as the Manchester United of Italy is pretty much undisputed. No Italian club has more fans or trophies.
The old crest had come to represent that success. Indeed, it seems strange to see a club with so much history completely revamp its image. But then again, maybe that’s the point – ambition, a bold new design for a bold new era.
The club might not be content with just scraping into the world top ten. They might want change – to rival the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and that has-been club from Manchester.
Point is, a new identity can breathe new life into a business. And despite all of its local history, that’s exactly what Juventus is – a global business with a global brand.
Put simply, if they want a kid in every city wearing their shirt, this probably isn’t a bad way to go about it.
The argument against
But just picture that for a second. Forget kids in London wearing Man Utd shirts – how about kids in Leeds wearing Juventus shirts?
That’s the way things are going. The relationship between a football club and its fans is becoming more and more akin to the relationship between brands and consumers.
That might sound sceptical, but it’s not. Yes it’s a shame that people feel the need to reject their local teams in favour of less meaningful relationships with clubs halfway across the world, but what can you do? Fans choosing glory over geography is nothing new.
But years ago it was the case that you supported your local club or your family’s club. That’s just tradition, and what is a football club without tradition? Without family connections, club icons, record-breakers?
If there’s one criticism of Juve’s new crest, it’s how detached it is from the club’s proud history. That may have been intentional or the club may have inadvertently rejected its past and everything that goes with it: the fan base, generations of Turinese families who have turned up week in, week out.
Fans or customers?
It’s these fans who have built up a relationship with the old crest and who have the most cause to feel dismayed. As @JuventusCrazy points out, “The new logo tells me this is the Juventus brand and we are customers, not fans.”
Perhaps that’s the most important thing to take away from all this. A new crest reflecting a new club culture – or even a company culture – is all well and good, but it should never be introduced without full consultation with the supporters, or the employees.
Owners, players, managers and marketing teams come and go, but the fans stick with the club through thick and thin. Ultimately, they define the identity and as such, should be considered above all else.
So is Juve’s new identity a sign of things to come or an epic fail? As with most rebrands, only time will tell. If the powers that be manage to get the fan base on board with the new brand, there’s no reason the club can’t make a success of it.
Ultimately, the new crest says a lot about the mentality of the modern football club – but is that the kind of club that Juve’s traditional fans want? Let’s see.