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AFL Women’s unveils brand mark by PUSH

The AFL today unveiled its much anticipated ‘W’ brand mark for AFL Women’s, developed by brand consultancy PUSH Collective.

The bold mark represents a new take on the game of AFL and celebrates the extraordinary professional athletes from across Australia who will soon be able to play football in an elite women’s competition.

“The launch of AFL Women’s is a milestone in Australia’s sporting history. Our team was determined to create a brand identity that expressed a new perspective on the game and its traditions – an identity that encapsulates both the familiar and the progressive nature of the elite women’s style of play. We are thrilled to be a part of creating new history for the players and fans who are driving AFL Women’s, and helping to inspire future generations who no longer have to wonder whether it’s possible for women to play at the elite level,” said Ken Shadbolt, executive creative director of PUSH Collective.

While exploring the unique shapes of the AFL goal posts and goal square, the PUSH team found a way to fashion these iconic elements into a deceptively simple ‘W’ mark. The ‘W’ mark will feature prominently in the lead up to next year’s competition, and will be supported by a new visual identity system that has been designed to challenge preconceptions of how football is presented in this country.

The new brand mark was revealed in a short launch video – also created by PUSH – featuring many of the league’s star players.  

 

 

AFL Marketing Manager – Brand, Jemma Wong said: “This is such a historic moment for the AFL brand. We wanted to create something that was bold, future-forward and modern, but resonated strongly with the players and fans of AFL Women’s. It also needed to be designed for digital environments and small screens as well as carrying weight in traditional media.

“The AFL Women’s brand positioning, ‘See What We Create’, places the athletes at the heart of the brand, empowering them to co-create and build the future of the league with us for future generations. We consulted with the Football Advisory Group, shared this work with clubs and players and worked closely with PUSH Collective to create a contemporary design that was powerful and aspirational. We are delighted with the results delivered by Ken Shadbolt and his team.”

Thanks to APN and QMS, the brand mark was on display today in near Flinders St Station on digital billboard sites to celebrate the launch.

Video credits: 

Creative direction: PUSH Collective
Motion design: Gramm
Sound design: Samplify

 

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PUSH writes Olympic brand article for this month’s Marketing Magazine

 As Rio prepares to host the world at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, PUSH Collective’s co-founder and executive creative director, Ken Shadbolt reflects on his experience working with the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games to create the Look of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

Love it or loathe it, there’s no denying the inexorable rise and influence of The Olympic Movement throughout the twentieth and (so far at least) twenty-first centuries. Whichever way you look at it – the world’s largest sporting event; the world’s biggest sporting franchise; or, the world’s largest television audience – the numbers alone are extraordinary. Add to that the profound cultural and historical dimensions of The Olympic Movement and it becomes something of a phenomenon worthy of closer scrutiny.

At the center of The Movement’s success is one of the most sought after brand associations on the planet. No other brand has captured the hearts and minds of successive generations of athletes, governments, sponsors, broadcasters and spectators.

But why? What separates the Olympics Games from any other sporting world championships? Why is the Olympic brand so revered?

In exploring the helm of The Olympic Movement – the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – you’ll find a seemingly incongruous orchestration of three dichotomies that define the Olympic brand. 

1. Idealism and commercialism

Imagine a brand that combines the best of Nike with the best of the United Nations and you’re some way towards understanding why the Olympic brand is so powerful.

On one hand, the Olympic brand behaves like a humanitarian brand. It places idealism and morality above all other interests. On the other hand, its association with the world’s hottest contemporary athletes gives it an edge and dynamism unlike any non-commercial organisation.

I was a little skeptical after hearing the Games referred to in one briefing session as ‘a place where the world of sport and a yearning for peace meet’. While it’s easy to dismiss such lofty notions as idealistic and out of touch, it’s precisely these values that elevate the brand beyond any other sporting event, and allow Olympism to fulfill some fundamentally human need to aspire to a higher purpose. Paradoxically, it’s these same Olympic values that are the source of the brand’s commercial value.

Commercial partners are critical to securing the enormous financial requirements of organising the world’s largest event. But it’s by no means laissez-faire. These commercial partners pay handsomely with the expectation of the IOC ruthlessly protecting and upholding the Olympic values even when it may restrict their own communication plans. The IOC’s ability to achieve their financial requirements without compromising the Olympic ideals is critical to the brand’s success.

It’s not often appreciated that the IOC has mandated a strict ‘clean’ venue policy prohibiting any commercial sponsorship on the sporting field-of-play of all events at the Games. As Sydney’s Program Manager of Look, Susie Grierson rightly pointed out in the lead up to the 2000 Games, the Olympic arena must feel ‘sacrosanct’. Many athletes cite this commercial-free approach as what separates the Olympic Games from all other sporting experiences. There are stories of hardened professional athletes who plan to treat the Games ‘just like any other event’ only to walk out onto the pristine arena to be completely overwhelmed by the sight of the Olympic rings in this context.

While the IOC is famous for its tough negotiating tactics to secure the highest bids for broadcasting rights, they have also turned away higher bids from private broadcasters to keep the Games with a free-to-air channel. This ensures they remain true to their values by allowing everyone with access to a television to afford to watch the Games.

It is this fine balance of humanitarian values and commercial appeal that sits at the heart of the brand.

2. Ruthless consistency and constant reinterpretation

It is sometimes said that The Olympic Movement is just one bad Games away from total disaster.

In the lead up to the Sydney Games, we were extremely aware of the need to deliver something special that would restore faith in The Olympic Movement after the controversy of rogue commercial agendas had undermined the previous Games in Atlanta. While Sydney 2000 was lauded as ‘the best Games ever’ by outgoing IOC president Samaranch, Atlanta was something of a close call for the IOC, and one that heightened their desire for control of every aspect of future Games.

The Olympic brand has since become one of the most tightly managed and highly protected brands in the world today. However the IOC must carefully walk a line of assuredness of delivery without suppressing the individuality of each host city’s approach.

 

Consider for a moment there were no host cities, and every Olympic Games was held in the IOC’s hometown of Lausanne, Switzerland. Certainly it would provide a substantial cost saving, fewer security concerns, far less political complexities, and the opportunity to hone a perfectly consistent Games experience year after year. But this predictability would kill the one of the defining characteristics of the Olympic brand – constant cultural reinterpretation.

It’s the interpretation of Olympic values through a local cultural lens that that reinvigorates the Games every few years. This diversity also fulfills a very practical requirement to provide the footage of each Games with a unique ‘cultural date stamp’ allowing easy identification of historical footage in subsequent years. In recent years, the Olympic brand is considerably richer for the ancient connections of Athens 2004, the shear spectacle of Beijing 2008, and the youth focus of the London 2012 Games.

Hosting an Olympic Games is one of the most high-stake franchises imaginable. From the IOC’s perspective, they hand their most cherished possession – the reputation of the Olympic brand – to a new host city at each Games. From the host city’s perspective, they will be challenged to both nuture and protect the Olympic brand while imbuing the Games with their local cultural perspective.

This opportunity sees governments and most creative professionals clambering for the international credibility that a potential Olympic association may bring. Get it right and the host cities can share in an economic, cultural and reputational afterglow for years to come. However, as we saw with Atlanta, get it wrong and risk suffering the scrutiny and indignation of the world’s media.

 3. Ancient traditions and progressive leadership

Having to contemplate what it meant for Sydney to host the ‘Millennium Games’ seemed at times to be an impossible conundrum. This wrestling of meaning and relevance between ancient traditions and modern expectations is another defining aspect the Olympic brand.

In 1896, the founder of the Modern Games, Pierre de Coubertin, revived the spirit of the Ancient Games from Olympia in Greece as the basis of the Modern Games. With that decision came symbols, ceremonies and rituals that continue to imbue and differentiate the Olympic brand today.

With a heritage older than Christianity, and not unlike a modern day religion, The Olympic Movement must navigate respect for the traditions that have served the brand well over many decades, with the need to remain relevant to future generations. Even today, the flame that lights each Olympic Cauldron is still ignited by the sun at a strangely ancient ceremony in Olympia, before making its way via the torch relay to the host city. In today’s increasingly cynical world, how much longer can the Games continue these traditions?

And yet, despite perceptions of the IOC as bureaucratic custodians obsessed with preserving Olympic traditions, there’s mounting evidence to suggest they’re acutely aware of the need for progressive leadership.

Who would have thought a few years ago that an Olympic gold medal would be awarded for sports like BMX or snowboarding? The decision to include these sports was a deliberate attempt by the IOC to widen the appeal of the Olympic brand to include teenagers more interested in EPSN’s X Games that anything Olympic.

Among forty initiatives aimed at keeping the Games relevant in the coming years is an extraordinary initiative aimed at encouraging mixed gender sports. Even in the highly progressive world of commercial sport, the introduction of mixed gender sports could see The Olympic Movement take the lead to challenge one of the final frontiers of equality in sport – a radical departure from the Ancient Games’ exclusively masculine traditions.

And so, with the mandatory pre-Games jitters now upon the Rio – political instability, economic uncertainty, water quality issues, and a looming Zika catastrophe ­– there’s plenty for the IOC to worry about.

Having experienced first hand how Sydney worried its way throughout the lead up to one of the most successful Games (remember the concerns over threats of terrorism, traffic chaos, and a supposedly woeful Opening Ceremony), I’m confident that once the Cauldron is alight and Brazil tastes success on the sporting field, the Olympic Movement will be all the stronger for adding its first Latin American chapter to its remarkable narrative.

 

Ken Shadbolt is co-founder and Executive Creative Director of the brand consultancy PUSH Collective.  Ken was Group Design Director of the team that created the Emblem and Look of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. He has also created brand identities for many sporting brands including Cricket Australia, Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, 2007 FINA World Championships, One HD, Mark Webber, and is currently working with the AFL to create the new Women’s League logo.

 

 

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Macquarie University: breaking free from conventional thinking

‘”What’s it like in there?”, a driver asked Juliet Harper as he gave her a lift and nodded towards the concrete gloom: “Funny place to put a uni – they say it’s different to the others, got grades instead of marks and these semesters instead of terms and mothers bring their kids to classes. That right?”. Juliet Harper remembers above all the hopefulness, the “novelty and sheer possibility of what could be done”, the confidence that “things could be and would be different.”‘

That’s how one of the first students of Macquarie University, 50 years ago, remembers university in the book ‘Liberality of Opportunity. A History of Macquarie University 1964-1989’. It was the 60s, and a new university campus with a distinctive, Brutalist architecture had just been built in the orchards north of Sydney.

Over time the brand had lost the ability to inspire and unite

Things have changed a lot since then, and Macquarie University now lies at the centre of Australia’s largest high-tech precinct. However, over the years, as the world and the city around it kept evolving, the University has struggled to embrace and update its original raison d’etre. What had started as a pioneering university – a small but visionary alternative to the ‘sandstone universities’, at the forefront of many innovations – had become just another large, mid-tier university. By all means a good university, but one whose brand punched below its weight – perceived as being a bit ordinary, and confused in its positioning over the years.

With a new Vice-Chancellor in charge, the University was determined to create a more distinctive and inspiring narrative.

Reclaiming the audacity to challenge conventions

The development of the new narrative was to be approached as a comprehensive effort, aimed at all the University’s stakeholders, starting with its staff. It was not a conventional marketing exercise, but the articulation of a ‘shared identity’, as the brand project would be called.

After a competitive pitching process, PUSH was appointed to run the project. It took place over the course of a year and was structured in four phases: discovery, brand strategy, creative development and implementation. It was deeply consultative and focused on Macquarie University as the parent brand while encompassing all the many entities that together form the University – from faculties and schools to research centres, student organisations and partnerships with industry.

The brand strategy has injected a new sense of purpose into Macquarie University and its culture – it speaks of audacity and breaking free from conventional thinking. A new brand proposition centred on the essence ‘nurtured to break free’ establishes a clear link to the University’s creation story, while providing the basis for a challenger role in the higher education landscape and a rich platform for ongoing evolution.

A new visual and verbal identity projects the University’s creation story into the future

Around a more confident parent brand, a new brand architecture was introduced throughout the entire University portfolio. New principles were explored, negotiated and established. They recognise the diversity and specific requirements of individual entities while aligning them more closely to Macquarie University as a whole. High-profile institutions such as the prestigious graduate business school MGSM and the state-of-the-art hospital on the campus have become more clearly part of the bigger Macquarie University story. They lift the profile of their parent brand while borrowing its strength and authoritativeness.

With the brand proposition and architecture completed, PUSH evolved the visual and verbal brand identity. After careful consideration, the existing brandmark – introduced only a few years earlier – was replaced. Despite all efforts, it had never succeeded in winning the hearts of staff, students or alumni, and was seen as devoid of meaning. In the new brandmark, the traditional symbol of the University, the Macquarie Lighthouse, has been brought back and reinterpreted in a contemporary manner. The continuity with the University’s creation story is seen as a source of confidence and as the inspiration to explore and experiment.

The new brandmark is surrounded by a new identity. This new identity projects the University’s narrative outside campus life and into the bigger world – engaged with the bigger issues that will determine the future of humanity.

The new identity touches every facet of the University’s communication and allows it to speak to different audiences with different tonalities while clearly emanating from the same brand. It brings flexibility as well as consistency.

The roll-out has started from the inside out, with a new faculty and research framework

At the completion of the project, PUSH conducted extensive training to help the University’s in-house staff and its suppliers embrace and apply the new strategy and identity. We also worked closely with Macquarie in the selection and briefing of the advertising agency as well as the architects and artists who will help evolve the campus, making it again a beacon of freedom and optimism for new generations.

True to the spirit of the ‘Shared Identity’ project, the new brand strategy and identity were introduced to the University’s staff first, with a live Q&A session. The event was a success, and was soon followed by a gala with alumni and philanthropists against the magnificent backdrop of the Sydney Harbour. It was the occasion to celebrate the University’s 50th anniversary and be inspired by the ambitiousness of new ‘proof points’: the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences would soon be set up and a new framework established to foster multi-disciplinary research.

Now 50 years old, Macquarie University looks at the future with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence.

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