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Lessons from the Juventus brand evolution

Over the past week, we have had countless opportunities to talk about the launch of the new Juventus identity, which the club has partnered on with Interbrand. While we had anticipated that the launch would cause a stir, this now appears as a considerable understatement.

We have had conversations with fans, football enthusiasts, radios, sports journalists, business journalists, design commentators, marketing executives, other clubs, and many, many others from across the field. The depth and breadth of interest has been nothing short of remarkable, and has felt as though the world were waiting for something like this to happen in football. We feel it is a good time to capture some of the consistent themes running through those conversations.

 

  1. Brand for what’s next.

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Change in the football industry is fast, and accelerating. Once a strongly local ritual, it is now a global sector. Once a single live event with media coverage, it is now content that is experienced in a myriad of different ways globally.

We built the Juventus brand based on our vision of football’s future, not our observation of its past. As Silvio pointed out to Wired,

Our message is not really about change as much as it is about understanding of the world around us, with the subsequent need to evolve and widen the brand in different markets and geographies. These elements derive from Juventus’ long-term strategic plan, and the commitment to make it sustainable.

The new identity will need to thrive across tomorrow’s touchpoints, be they digital, spatial, physical, virtual, or augmented.

Influenced by the likes of wearable technology, virtual reality, and mobile entertainment, tomorrow’s fans will have radically different expectations in terms of experiences, and Juventus must be equipped to live up to them.

As CNN reported, “He [Juventus President Andrea Agnelli] told the cognoscenti at the launch: ‘Change before you have to’.” 

 

  1. Challenge the conventions

European football is dominated by shields, crests, ovals, and other devices. There is obviously nothing wrong with these; many come with a glorious story. On the other hand, however, there is no real reason for assuming that a football logotype should conform to this tradition. It’s a case where the norm isn’t driven by design, but design is conforming to the norm.

We saw an opportunity to challenge the convention. As observed by Brand New, “Fans and purists will disagree, but the new logo is excellent, regardless or perhaps specifically for how it breaks from convention and tradition and dares to do something different for this specific category.”

 

  1. Brand for Growth 

The Daily Mirror’s article on the new identity ends on this note:

Ultimately, Ricca says, this exercise has been about one fundamental question: How do you market a football club to people who are not necessarily interested in sport?

With increasingly small crowds at grounds across the continent and even Premier League viewing figures dwindling, this seems like a question all clubs will soon be asking themselves.

 While Juventus holds its legions of fans as its driving force, growth for the Club will also come from other audiences – entertainment enthusiasts who might not be necessarily as interested in football as a sport.

Some of the world’s most valuable brands are relevant to people who aren’t necessarily lovers or users of their products, but share fundamental values with the brands themselves – think of Harley Davidson inspiring the notions of freedom and independence to non-motorcyclists.

Juventus’ challenge is that this can happen in football, too, and this brand evolution is built to sustain that; to make the Juventus DNA – embodied by the “until the end” battle cry and the values of perseverance, ambition, excellence – big in football, but bigger than football. A growth strategy based on enabling people to live the Juventus experience, not merely the Juventus football experience.

 

  1. Don’t own an identity, be an identity

As a number of commentators noticed, Juventus’ leap is not merely a visual change—it’s a different way of conceiving the brand. Most football club brands represent something else—be it the team, football, a city or a landmark. Juventus has chosen to represent itself. This shift in perspective is the main reason behind the huge impact of this launch.

In other words, rather than own an identity, Juventus has chosen to be an identity. It has set out to own primary elements such as the black and white stripes and the J letter. Rather than referring to an icon, Juventus has turned itself into an icon, as the world’s greatest brands do.

A conceptual change leading to a unique tangible result. The new design brings new codes to football, but, differently from traditional football identities, can live with authority, confidence, and elegance away from pitches and stadiums—where the main growth opportunities for Juventus are. We are building a Juventus brand for whom football will always be the origin, but never the boundary.

 

  1. Beyond assumptions 

Manfredi had an in-depth live conversation with the editors at Radio Vecchia Signora, the radio representing the largest community of Juventus fans (it’s here, starting from approximately min. 1:54—and sorry, it’s in Italian).

The discussion was about the international aspect of this evolution, and how Juventus and Interbrand approached it, not as an Italian club going abroad, but as a truly global club rooted in Italy. The difference between these two approaches isn’t a nuance— it’s huge, and it’s all about assumptions.

As an Italian club going abroad, Juventus would have assumed everyone, everywhere to know:

– where Italy is
– what makes Italy different from France, Austria, Spain, etc.
– that Juventus is Italian
– that Juventus is from Turin
– that Turin is in Italy
– what makes Turin different from Milan, Rome, etc.
– that Turin is symbolized by a prancing bull
– what the stadium rituals in Turin are
– …and so forth.

Instead, reasoning as a truly global citizen, Juventus challenged those assumptions.

We looked at the brand in a way that would be truly relevant to its future audiences—a 30-year-old in Shanghai, a university student in Auckland, a San Diego schoolboy—and, in so doing, conveyed a new message to existing Italian and European fans.

The red thread

While these themes might be discrete and diverse, at a closer look there is a single red thread running through all of them. Rather than have the status quo pose a constraint to our ambitions, we let the Club’s ambitions challenge and change the status quo. Like many great strategic imperatives, it’s as simple in theory as it is hard in practice. And yet, Juventus’ very ability to do just this has been the key ingredient of this launch’s worldwide success.

Check out the work: Juventus case study
And to view more creative and video, read the article on brandchannel.

This article was co-written by Silvio Vigato, Head of Brand, Licensing, and Retail and Co-Chief Revenue Officer for Juventus

Contributors

Chief Strategy Officer, EMEA & LatAm
Head of Brand, Licensing, and Retail and Co-Chief Revenue Officer for Juventus