Special post by Felipe Tobar, doctoral student at Clemson University.
In a country where a variety of football elements is recognized as part of the cultural heritage of different states and cities (Tobar and Gusso, 2018), any intent that seeks to modify that heritage will undoubtedly generate polarized opinions usually influenced by the passion that guides fans towards their beloved football team.
On December 11, 2018, the former ‘Clube Atlético Paranaense’ (CAP), a Brazilian football club, became the focus of the football press in Brazil not just because of their participation in the Copa Sudamericana 2018 finals against Junior Barranquilla from Colombia, but rather after unveiling the new visual identity of the club which consisted of a new name, emblem, uniforms, and mascots. The changes were presented by Mario Celso Petraglia, former club’s president, who reinforced that such moment was part of a long-term project operated by modern practices of football management that envision the internationalization of the club: “Atletico needs an identity, a national and an international identity. If we pretend to be one of the biggest clubs in the world, we have to have a unique identity. The creation of our own identity was necessary as we have never had one.” (Facebook page of CAP, 2018).
Based on a quantitative research that asked 18.000 official supporters about several topics including what constituted the club’s essence, the brand design company hired to create the club’s new identity concluded that the club’s nickname – `Furacāo` (Hurricane in English), was part of the DNA of the club, thus deserving to be a central element in the transformative process. As such, taking the Brazilian indigenous interpretation regarding the word ‘Hurricane,’ which consists of a ‘Promise of a new era’ and in an explicit attempt to avoid similarities with Atletico Mineiro, a Brazilian football team where former Barcelona star, Ronaldinho Gaúcho played in 2015, the club readopted the original name ‘Club Athletico Paranaense’. This included a redesign of the former emblem which dated back of 1997, changing the traditional black and red vertical stripes on the uniform that was a reminder of the AC Milan shirt, announcing the new mascots which comprised of a family with a dog (a clear message against previous episodes of violence produced by the organized supporters named “Os Fanatics.”)
Photo 1: Throughout its history, the club had more than ten different emblems.
Photo 2: Comparisons between the old and new uniform.
Photo 3: Comparison between the old and new mascots.
For many fans, all these elements are considered sacred, and therefore could never be modified. To illustrate, in the recent past Hull City fans did not support the new brand identity proposed by the owner Assem Allam who wanted to rebrand the club as ‘Hull City Tigers’ as he believed it was more marketable than simply ‘Hull City’ (Jolly, 2013), while Everton temporarily angered fans in 2013 after removed from their emblem the Latin motto, Nil Satis Nisi Optimum (Nothing but the best is good enough), which was later reincluded due to an online petition moved by fans to club’s board (BBC, 2013). Also, Cardiff City fans forced the club owner Vincent Tam in 2015 to reestablish the blue kit with a bluebird badge after the decision of playing in red shirts with a dragon badge. (ESPN, 2015). In the current year, approximately 51.000 Leeds United supporters did not agree and criticized through an online petition the new emblem that the club intended to launch to mark the club’s centenary, thus forcing to reopen the consultation process and keeping the current logo. (BBC, 2018).
As Williams (2017) cleverly identified “(i)n soccer (football), altering or even the suggestion of altering, heritage-filled insignia is a perilous task. Changing iconic, and often beloved, emblems that are emblazoned on clothes and mugs, painted on city walls and even tattooed on bodies has become an almost certain way to cause rifts among fans and provoke outrage on social media, where criticism can be registered and amplified exponentially in an instant.” Nonetheless, despite this visceral relation that many fans nurtured with different club heritages, history have demonstrated that several football teams have changed at least one of their elements throughout their histories. For example, Manchester United had five different emblems throughout its history, and has played as Newton Heath Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in a green-and-gold kit until 1902 when switched to the famous red. Chelsea was first named ‘The Pensioners’ and only saw the adoption of the famous Lion in 1950. Arsenal also rebranded its emblem in 2002, with the most significant change on the cannon that faced other direction (left to right). Liverpool, which in 2018 revealed a new emblem to commemorate its 125th anniversary, excluding historical elements such as the shield added in the 1980s as well as the Shankly Gates and Hillsborough tribute on which were stamped the words to the club’s anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” inserted in the 1990s. Most recently, clubs like Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, and with more significant impact, Juventus, based on market strategies also redrawn their logos in an attempt to attract more fans and become a lifestyle brand.
Photo 4: Evolution of Juventus’ emblems since its foundation.
As Dave Moor (2009) inform the tradition of wearing uniform kits began to appear around 1870 as a response to the difficulty of distinguishing players of both teams. For example, accordingly, to the rules of Sheffield FC in 1857, there was just the obligation to wear a red or dark blue flannel cap by each side. In 1890, two years after its foundation, the Football League determined that clubs should register their colors and kits to avoid repetition, which has helped the development of football as a spectator sport since fans could pick out their teams from a considerable distance.
The intentional reference to this rule facilitated many of the protests on social media promoted by Athletico’s fans against the modification of the heritage elements of the club. Many authors from social sciences (Archetti, 1994; Coelho, 2002; Giulianotti, 2002) have demonstrated that football plays a crucial role in identity-building. If at the beginning of the football association fans started to identify themselves with teams only through the uniform colors, football supporters nowadays consider every element that constitutes the team (name, emblem, uniform, mascots, nicknames, and other symbols) as vehicles of representation of the club’s identity, and by extension, of their respective personal identities.
According to McGregor (2014) identity is a source of proud (e.g., proud to be part of a family, a neighbourhood, or a city) and is exercised through the construction of symbols and discourses that necessarily need material support and meanings to exist. In this sense, the heritage elements of any club play a fundamental role nurturing this proud between fans either as a way of remembering historical achievements or simply by aesthetic reasons. Athletico’s fans who declared opposition to the redrawn process of the tangible heritage elements of the club would probably argue that such changes were not needed since the glorious achievements of the past happened when the team wore the former kit and emblem (e.g., Brazilian Championship in 2001 and the Copa Sudamericana in 2018). As football can be interpreted as a ‘social active language’ (Domingos, 2015) influencing the everyday discussions, several fans through a constant oral or written exercise of social and intergenerational interaction will end up reproducing those unforgettable moments, thus creating some resistance to what they consider radical changes to the history and identity of the club.
Aesthetic reasons are also one of the justifications in the rejection of this new heritage, especially if the new design does not match the values and beliefs of the supporters. Here, is essential to remind that fans usually take control of the club’s heritage elements to not only state their values, beliefs, and preferences, but most importantly (as it is implied in the core of the identity concept) to differentiate themselves from other clubs and supporters (especially in relation to their biggest rival). Regarding this point, as soon as the new brand was announced, many fans from Coritiba, Athletico’s biggest rival started to create memes and jokes on social media targeting the fact that the emblem reminded them of Honda’s motorcycle brand.
Photo 5: Similarities between the logos of CAP and Honda.
Others denounced that the new logo was a copy of Nike’s logo for a 10km race promoted in Stockholm in the year 2015.
Photo 6: Nike’s logo for a race promoted in Sweden.
Despite the criticism from rivals and from some of the club’s own supporters, the `Club Athletico Paranaense` reinforced that the changes operated on the “symbolic system” of the club will remain, therefore giving space for the “creation of new moments, a future heritage” (Critchley, 2017, p.151). As a consequence of making room for new heritages, the Brazilian club can benefit economically from what is already being considered an authentic move for many sports journalists who view Athletico as a pioneer in best football management practices. (The club has the most modern training facility in Brazil featuring hotels, restaurants, and thermal pools, and is the only football team in South America to have a stadium with a retractable roof).
As sport heritage is even more connected to marketing initiatives, there is a broad avenue of opportunities for Club Athletico Paranaense make even their most angry fans happy and satisfied again with the new era of the club. As Scola and Gordon (2017) suggests there are five practical areas of retro marketing in sport: 1- Imagery (Logo/uniform redesigns; throwback uniforms); 2- Merchandising (Retro-centric sport merchandisers and team retro merchandise); 3 – Venue (Team hall of fames; Historical displays); 4 – Gameday Promotions (Giveaways; Theamed games/events); and 5 – Advertising (Elements in traditional ads; Campaigns celebrating milestones).
For example, CAP can create a throwback section for its fans offering the beloved uniforms as well as establishing one special game in the following seasons to players wear the former kit. Particular designs emphasizing the team’s past could also be included in new new souvenirs and apparel. In addition, there is much potential to explore legendary players images by promoting their past through displays at the stadium or even to inaugurate their hall of fame museum. This latter initiative would also symbolize the definitive access to a new future where new legends are expected to be `worshiped` by the fans.
Furthermore, game days can be a vehicle to promote the conquers of the past, thus boosting a desire on fans to repeat it in the new era inaugurated by the club. By activating the `golden memories` of their fans, CAP can repeat the success of many American teams which not only celebrate the past with a giveaway but celebrate the anniversary of a championship gathering the players in front of the entire stadium. The title of the Copa Sudamericana 2018, certainly can be a target for this kind of action in the next year. Another sphere that is open to exploring is advertising and as Scola and Gordon (2017, p.204) informs utilizing retro marketing into the nostalgic feelings of their fans has been found to be effective in marketing.
As this post intended to demonstrate the ‘Club Athletico Paranaense’ has built a new heritage, therefore provoking several changes on its tangible elements followed by passionate discussions between their supporters and rivals. Furthermore, it showed that this move is not uncommon throughout the football history which exhibits an extensive list of important clubs that modified especially their emblems. However, this particular move of CAP can also represent the first attempt of any Brazilian team to acquire the right of a place in the global football stage, which has been explored by few European clubs seeking for new markets, thus reinforcing the common assumption which understands football as the global game. As such, there won’t be a surprise if, in the next season, Athletico Paranaense start international tours and in few years opening offices abroad as Bayern Munchen, Barcelona and Manchester United have recently done in Asia or North America.
FELIPE BERTAZZO TOBAR is a doctoral student and graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department at Clemson University. His interests lie in critical studies of heritage, with a particular interest in sport heritage. He received his bachelor’s degree in Law (2014) and obtained a Master’s degree in Cultural Heritage and Society (2017) from the Univille University, in the city of Joinville, Brazil. He can be reached on Twitter at @felipebtobar.
Archetti, E. (1994). Masculinity and football: The formation of national identity in Argentina. Game without frontiers: Football, identity and modernity, 225-243.
Athletico Paranaense’s Facebook page. In Facebook. Retrieved December 13, 2018, from https://www.facebook.com/atleticopr.
BBC. Everton motto to return after fans condemn badge redesign. In BBC.com. Retrieved December 13, 2018, from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-merseyside-24157391
BBC. Leeds United: Consultation on change to club’s crest to be reopened. In BBC.com. Retrieved December 13, 2018, from https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/42811556
Coelho, J. N. (2002). Some notes on football and national identity in Portugal. Fanatics: Power, Identity and Fandom in Football, 158.
Critchley, S. (2017).What We Think About When We Think About Football. London: Profile Books.
Domingos, N. Futebol e Colonialismo, Corpo e Cultura Popular em Moçambique. Lisboa: ICS, 2015
ESPN. Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan confirms return to traditional blue kit. In ESPN.com. Retrieved December 13, 2018, from http://www.espn.com/soccer/league-name/story/2234909/headline
Giulianotti, R. (2002). Supporters, followers, fans, and flaneurs: A taxonomy of spectator identities in football. Journal of sport and social issues, 26(1), 25-46.
Jolly, R. Hull to become ‘Hull City Tigers’. In ESPN.com. Retrieved December 13, 2018, from http://www.espn.com/soccer/barclays-premier-league/story/1517599/hull-city-owners-to-change-clubs-irrelevant-name
McGregor, J. Patrimonio Cultural como fundamento de la identidad y memoria. In Youtube. Retrieved December 13, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRAQXYXPr7I&t=1404s
Moor, D. A Brief History of Football Kit Design in England and Scotland. In Historical Football Kits. Retrieved December 13, 2018, from http://www.historicalkits.co.uk/Articles/History.htm
Scola, Z., & Gordon, B. S. (2018). A Conceptual Framework for Retro Marketing in Sport. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 27(3).
Tobar, F. B., & de Carvalho Gusso, L. S. (2018). Tras los bastidores de la patrimonialización cultural del fútbol brasilero en siglo XXI. Em Questão.
Williams, J. In Soccer, Teams Change Logos at Their Peril. In New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/28/sports/soccer/britain-soccer-liverpool-crest.html