Yesterday, Manchester City unveiled its new kit – wait, wait. No. That’s not right. New York City FC revealed its new kit on Thursday, to much derision on the Twittersphere. This was because the kits look almost identical, save the differences in the badges.
But that’s the point.
On Twitter and in media reports about the unveiling, modelled by NYCFC’s first signing David Villa, there was much snarky pushback. “So, with the new kit, NYCFC now has the look of a minor league club for Manchester City. So much for a unique identity,” NBC Sports reported.
NYCFC wants to resemble Manchester City, and there is no “minor league” about it. There was no kit designer sitting in a dark closet in the bowels of some secret Manchester City/ New York City bunker giggling to him or herself and saying, “I’ll just make them the same and just knock off early.”
The same article went on to say, “When NYCFC released their inaugural kit today, along with sponsor Etihad Airways, it was clear the message they were sending: they have embraced the connection with its co-owners.”
I’m going to make a wild guess and say this is exactly what the NYCFC marketing team intended. They would have asked: what are the ways we can reinforce the association with an established, credible club, one in a strong league in the country where soccer is the top sport? They would know that brand is about positive association.
It’s also about delivering a clear message and confirming credibility – and a kit that resembles Manchester City’s does that. They already know that the hallmarks of a parent brand are carried through every instance. This is pretty clear when you look at Melbourne City kits and colours.
For MLS teams, identity has been an interesting evolution, including the part where MLS recently unveiled its own new logo. Unlike each club’s logo, most of which went to great lengths to incorporate brand elements that mean something to the supporters, the new MLS logo is bland and up for debate as to what, exactly, it inspires.
It’s far better than its old one and certainly a step in the right direction for a sport that is the considered the red-headed stepchild in the U.S., but it had nothing to anchor it—no memorable element, no relation to the greater football world…just nothing at all, really.
Luckily, NYCFC’s logo has not followed that pattern. The NYCFC logo is one of the nicest in the world – and it stands out on its own.
The NYCFC badge was created by New York-based designer Rafael Esquer and ultimately selected by an online vote in which fans chose between two potential badges. Esquer is known for his iconic “Made in NY” logo and, like his client, clearly understood the need for a badge that would reference the past of an old city while incorporating elements that would nod to its established sports.
It also took pains to communicate a fresh, modern look—one that says “winning” and “future,” and what better font to do that with the Gotham font?
The Gotham font was designed by New York City-based type designer Tobias Frere-Jones. Americans will know it best as the “Obama font” because it was so successfully employed for all Obama-related campaign materials, for both election wins.
Now, the font is an advertising darling. Gotham, itself inspired by the letters over the entrance to the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal (as reported in the utterly enjoyable book Just My Type), has become synonymous with the idea of change, victory, and honest success. It’s an excellent choice for a new MLS club that hasn’t yet established itself.
According to the NYCFC website, the badge “is inspired by the old New York City Subway Token, created by the Transit Authority in 1953 and used for 50 years as the standard fare for a ride. The last version of the token had a cut out pentagon in the centre representing the five boroughs, similar to what appears on either side of the monogram, to reinforce the Club’s connection to entire city.
The circle is also a symbol of unity, wholeness and infinity, and is often associated with potential and the number one. This is a modern and confident badge that clearly speaks to New York City’s status as a leading city.”
Interestingly, the final logo does not incorporate the subway token cutout, although earlier designs did, and that’s all for the better since the pentagon cut out brought to mind a baseball bag and not anything to do with soccer.
All of this is to say “who cares?” that the kit looks like Manchester City’s. Keeping the association between the two clubs hurts nothing and reinforces everything.
Oh, you say, but that isn’t what was promised.
Some New Yorkers awaiting their new club were vastly disappointed. On a supporter’s discussion forum about the new kit, they wanted the kits to display a unique identity for New York, and not remotely resemble any other team. They claimed they’d been promised “a club for New York City.
They even went to so far as to say that the kit was “copying” an existing club and wondered if this was all marketing gimmick. (Hardly a striking one if so, especially in a city in which the other MLS team is named after an energy drink.) Another poster pointed out that they don’t yet have a team, they don’t yet have a stadium, and now they have a kit that is identical to Manchester City’s – and where’s the “club for New York City” in that?
SB Nation’s Mark Yesilevskiy, also a graphic designer, wrote that it was “disappointing to see NYCFC stick only to Manchester City’s shades of blue and not incorporate many of the colors from the flag of New York.
The orange that’s present in NYCFC’s badge in particular could have really stood out as an accent on the blue body but it’s a shame to see it missing altogether. Still, for a first effort, New York City FC’s kit isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. It just doesn’t really bring any surprises with it.”
I don’t think there was ever a chance for much surprise, much less incorporating New York City’s flag colors in it, but I do think Yesilevskiy’s point about the color is well taken–the kit could have stood for a dollop of orange.
The brand continues through all branches: David Villa stretches before A-League match with Melbourne City in a training shirt that looks remarkably like MCFC and NYCFC…at Etihad Stadium.
Would orange have been enough to salve the disappointment of the kit not being unique enough, or reflecting the “club for New York City”? I doubt it. Haters gonna hate. Did everyone who expressed disgust over the kit complain when Lampard back hopped over to City to play and keep up his fitness? (They are welcome to complain about the fact that Lampard “betrayed” Chelsea or that Manchester City somehow sneaked Lampard on loan and therefore get around UEFA Financial Fair Play requirements, but somehow I doubt these were their concerns.)
Did they complain that first signings Villa and Lampard are established, world-quality players with zero experience in the MLS, and not New York City youth products? I thought not.
Instead, maybe haters should suck it up and be glad their team isn’t thoroughly named after a drink. Or instead put their energy into campaigning against the near inevitability of a New York Etihad Stadium appearing in their midst. NYCFC already leads the pack in clean, cool design in the MLS.
A kit that resembles an established club—one that doesn’t look half bad, either–is the least of the new club’s crimes. Let’s see what else they do.