THE SLEEPING BEAR
It had been years since Russian football evoked a deep sense of pride in the hearts of the nation. Despite being ranked sixth by UEFA, Russia’s club football had struggled for recognition throughout the modern era.
A decline in match attendance, TV audiences and sponsorship contributions reflected a lack of connection between the country’s football and the Russian people. Blotted by hooliganism and claims of racism, its negative image was a turn-off to international broadcasters and partners alike.
A complicated naming structure and an outdated visual identity only compounded the common-held belief that Russian football would be forever stuck in the past.
CREATING A BRIGHTER FUTURE
The Russian Football Premier League, determined to deliver entertaining, competitive and commercially successful football, knew it had to transform the games’ image. The 2018 FIFA World Cup provided the perfect catalyst for change, and the desire for a positive legacy provided additional impetus to revitalise the image of Russian football across the board.
Whilst FIFA World Cup provided the ideal platform to showcase Russia in a positive light, to reverse the decline in domestic football, the Russian Premier League needed to attract and connect with new and existing fans at home, and use digital channels and broadcast opportunities to appeal to fans abroad.
THE BEAR AWAKES
Recognising the importance of defining a robust strategy for the brand before undertaking brand design or a campaign, the Russian Premier League approached us. Based on our recent experience rebranding the English Premier League we were invited to combine forces with RPL’s Marketing team and Leo Burnett Moscow to develop the new positioning.
To be a success the new brand needed to drive emotional interest through a compelling brand story, build greater awareness through a simplified name and a modern visual identity, and attract new and younger fans by engaging them with relevant digital content.
Stakeholder workshops and fan research revealed that a football competition played in a country the size of Russia is one of the modern world’s most epic stories. Being the largest and most diverse country on earth, with great distances, contrasts in climate, people and tradition, provides Russian football and its clubs with a unique challenge and a dramatic story to tell.
Against this background, we developed the core values and an exciting new sense of purpose that celebrated difference, authenticity, resilience and an uncompromising attitude to life and its challenges.
We recommended the League adopt a simplified architecture with a single brand and name ‘Russian Premier Liga’ for both the organisation and the competition. The League elected to also drop its title sponsor to further simplify the brand and increase commercial appeal for both partners and broadcasters.
Throughout, we worked in collaboration with the team at Leo Burnett, exploring different approaches to the brand story, and supporting the RPL marketing/commercial team in Moscow as they engaged stakeholders and gained buy-in.
A SYMBOL FOR A MODERN RUSSIA
ArtLebedev, the Moscow based agency, designed the new visual identity as a modern take on the Russian bear. Internationally recognised as a symbol of Russia, the bear is also a unifying emblem for the nation. A bold, dynamic design to herald the arrival of Russian football’s new found confidence and pride.