Anthony Costa sports branding

Anthony Costa

Sports Identity & Design

The AFL Women's League's new look

September 26, 2016
AFL Women's football

The new AFL Women’s logo was unwrapped this week. Does it work?

AFL Womens League logo

Marking a brand new logo can be tricky. A logo doesn’t earn its full meaning without repeated usage. You also need to see it across a range of media to get how it ticks. But you can’t dismiss first impressions. They can make or break a brand.

The new logo is cleverly cobbled together. I didn’t instantly get the slanted goal posts - it seemed to be just a slender, stylised ‘W’. This could be a common first take judging by a quick straw poll of colleagues. The four posts pop out soon enough though, like finding the hidden faces in a Rubin vase. The subtle footy symbolism isn’t nakedly obvious, but once you get it you don’t forget it.  

The orangy-salmon colour feels vibrant and fresh. Pink has traditionally denoted femininity, and is most powerfully aligned with breast cancer research. But pigeonholing women in bright My Little Pony Pink gets condescending after a while. This is a more gender-neutral shade, appropriate for a league that will be marketed to men and women alike.

Sometimes the best new logo is no logo at all. Did the Women’s League need its own separate logo? What would the message be had it just adopted the AFL’s existing apex logo?

The new logo marks a new era. A new competition. A new media platform with new partner sponsors.

However the most high-profile women athletes play in sports where they aren’t conspicuously segregated from men. In tennis a Grand Slam is a Grand Slam, whether it’s won by Novak Djokovic or Serena Williams. Both share the same centre court.

Ronda Rousey was the face of the UFC – not a separate WUFC. She owned the same octagon as male MMA athletes. The UFC brand didn't brush her off to a side tent.

For years boofheads have been bleating that women athlete’s don’t deserve to be paid or promoted until they can ‘pay their way’. This thinking is completely backwards. Context defines perception. Let women access the biggest stage, pay them like elite professionals and their achievements will appear more credible.

The best footballers play in the AFL. The AFL logo is an elitist tick. Is the Women’s League logo more of an asterix? Do women play in the AFL, or are they just playing AFL? Does creating a separate brand for the Women’s League subconsciously relegate it to a lower tier?

It’s probably a nitpicky question. A small AFL logo does accompany the new Women’s League logo. We’ll see how the interplay between these two elements works when the league is fully rolled out.

At the end of the day the Women’s League’s identity won’t live in a logo. The faces of the game’s new superstars will be the real brand. It’s their skill and courage that will sell the competition. The big story is that the league is actually happening, and the new logo draws attention to its launch. The comp will take a while to find its feet, like all startup leagues. The AFL and pioneering clubs like Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs deserve to be fully supported during this process. I can't wait to be a part of it.

Images via AFL.com.au.

Anthony Costa

Anthony Costa is a designer specialising in sports branding. Anthony has appeared on Fox Sports News and SEN radio and is an Australian Sports Commission Media Awards finalist. His work has been featured in The Age, The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and Sports Business Insider Australia.

Follow @CostaSports

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