Bradford City seemed to have had the best intentions with launching a new badge – so why has it gone wrong?

By Jason McKeown

In the middle of the Second World War, the UK prime minister Winston Churchill needed to get a key tactical instruction to his commander in chief, Harold Alexander, who was in situ in the Middle East. Churchill sent a telegram to Alexander that was just 34 words long.

“Your prime and main duty is to take and destroy at the earliest opportunity the German Italian army commanded by Field Marshall Rommel together with all its supplies and establishments in Egypt and Libya.”

It’s succinct and to the point. It was the only information that Alexander had to go on, as he mounted the next stage of his mission. Yet such was the clarity of message, Alexander knew exactly what was expected of him and his troops – and was able to succeed.

There’s a point to telling this story. When I’m not here on WOAP, rambling on about American pianists, over-hyping Chris Routis or mispronouncing Dion Pereira, I work as a content manager, heading up a team of copywriters. And as part of training writers, I regularly use this Churchill story to emphaise the point about being really clear with your message. And why it doesn’t need to take many words to achieve that.

It’s a lesson that Bradford City can be accused of not following, in the wake of their announcement of a proposed new club badge. There’s been quite the strong reaction to City’s plans, with the majority seemingly against the revised logo. And a lot of people are especially questioning why the club is wasting time and money coming up with a new identity in the first place.

That’s where the communication has failed. Whilst we’re in a very different world, and a new club badge is a very different purpose to Churchill’s 34-word battle instruction from 1942, it hasn’t been easy to decipher why Bradford City deems a new logo necessary in the first place. It’s not that the club hasn’t tried to tell us, a lot of information has been released attempting to explain it. But it completely lacks the brevity needed, causing the rationale to be lost in a sea of too much information.

For example, the club has released a document that is 78 (seventy eight!) pages long. You can find lots of detail about why the national media is inconsistent when using the current badge, and the technical issues kit manufacturers are finding incorporating it onto shirts. There’s a section all about why the logo is too thin compared to other clubs.

It’s all a bit technical, and inside-the-industry focused. And it’s not to belittle or dismiss these problems, but it’s not exactly a way to win over hearts and minds. Oh sorry Macron are having a tricky time getting the badge right, but – you know – I’m sure record shirt sales has come as some consolation. It’s the same with the justification of the intricate details of the proposed logo. If it needs that much explaining, there’s clearly something wrong with the direction of the design.

And that’s where we are. The club badge apparently needs changing for a range of very small reasons that mean little to supporters, and the new logo fixes them because of x and y. It’s no wonder that many people are finding this difficult to follow. As a marketing initiative, the communication has completely let it down. (Although I do like the Tom and Dom video.)

As for the backlash, the club is entitled to feel a little taken back and surprised. It’s no secret that updating a football club badge is fraught with risks – see Leeds United, Cardiff City and others – but Bradford City have been at great pains to point out their attempts to bring fans with them every step of the way. They’ve asked our views, they’ve compiled the data, and they’ve produced something that satisfies all the feedback they’ve acquired – so what’s the problem?

It’s easy to be wise after the event, but there are probably lessons to take here in identifying the true value of feedback. In particular the listening sessions with supporters and the preview to the local media.

First of all, as a football supporter we all have a universal desire to want our football club to listen to us. From whether a manager should be sacked to what kind of food should be sold in the concourse at half time. And so asking us for our opinion was – and is – a sound principle.

And so, when some supporters were invited in to share their views, understandably those asked were flattered and touched. But this can skew feedback. Because they’re more likely to go into discussions wanting to be positive and to like what’s put in front of them. It’s a bit like your partner offering to cook a special tea and slaving away for hours, you can’t then eat the meal and say it was rubbish – even if it tastes awful. As human beings were conditioned to be polite to each other. So, when City made all that effort to sit down with selected supporters and ask them what they think of their hard work, not surprisingly they seemingly got a thumbs up back.

(Full disclosure – I did not attend a listening session myself, but I did receive an invite from the club. I was unable to make it.)

There’s also a lesson in the quality of individual feedback and how far you apply it. This is something I see often in my world. You work with someone’s feedback to create a solution that works for them, but then when you roll it out further you discover their issue was not universal. The club have disclosed that, during a branding discussion with supporters, someone said the Bantam on the current logo should face the other way so it can be “forward-looking”. It seems that piece of individual feedback was acted on, yet the turned around Bantam has clearly played a big part in the structure of the new design. Did that one piece of feedback influence direction significantly, and did it merit such a drastic overall change?

It all means you have a situation of good intentions. The club wants to feel confident fans will like a bold direction, and so asks some supporters what they think, which enables them to fully explain the context and the journey taken that has got them to this point. Those who come in will feel privileged to be consulted, but on some level will want to be positive and buy in to what they see. So the club thinks it’s getting honest feedback that reflects the fanbase, and the supporter thinks they’re doing the club a favour by confirming their plans are great (I’m sure not every fan did this and they got some push back). A bubble of distorted feedback is created that is only burst when everyone else – who just gets to see a final logo, doesn’t get taken through the journey by the club, and are instead asked to read a 78-page document to understand it – gets involved.

In turn, the fact some people got invited and others didn’t has created a divide. People are now shouting at others accusing them of being happy clappers, others are proposing their own logos, others are deriding the time and resource spent by a club that have other challenges (such as not owning its own ground). The club hasn’t outlined a vision clearly enough to win over the large percentage of fans they didn’t invite in to preview it.

That’s the problem City have right now. They have genuinely tried to do things the right way. There is an issue with the current badge that they understand, and have to deal with day in day out. They know the solution might not be met with universal approval, and could be a PR own goal. So they ask us what we think, get loads of data, respond to the data, ask us what we think again – and then present something to the world that seems to be really well constructed.

But the end result is still really unpopular.

It’s reasonable to assume that the feedback from the subsequently launched survey will emphatically tell the club to abandon the proposed logo. In some ways it’s a shame, as you can see there are elements of the design that pay homage to the club’s heritage. Equally, the current one, that everyone is suddenly saying they love, has only been around for 30 years. Still, it’s hard to see how it’s salvageable. The more you stare at the badge, the worse it seems to look. It just isn’t good enough.

Ultimately, it looks like the best course of action is to refine the current badge to address the different issues. To meet the needs of the digital age. And then, to take on board the lessons learned.

One of which should be about the importance of having a clear message and purpose. 

Categories: Opinion


38 replies

  1. NO! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! It’s horrible

  2. The proposed badge suggests to me empty-headed squawking characteristics rather than those with which the word ‘bantam’ is traditionally synonymous i.e. being small but formidable.

    • Exactly Mitchell.

      At the risk of sounding like Sid James on a carry on film – the cock is too big…..

      It seems strange that Ryan’s got this so wrong as I think in general he’s been great at the marketing of the club. It’s somehow so City though. Things are looking up on the field so we have to find something to be miserable about.

  3. Hi Jason

    I wasn’t part of the survey, but nevertheless I don’t see why you think the exercise was flawed. Personally I think the new logo is much better than the old one. I like the fighting bantam facing the front. The only change I don’t understand is why the B in BC is longer than the C.

    It’s perfectly legitimate to spend time and effort on changing a logo after 30 years. It is daft to put it in a basket with not owning our own ground. The effort involved on the one is light years from the other. The arguments against this attempt are completely overblown.

  4. Extraordinary that time and money was spent on brand/marketing consultants to this extent it has (78 pages!😕) Skewed priorities surely. I got to the second paragraph of the website summary before switching off. Bollocks frankly.
    I guess the club is in a Catch 22 situation as it would have been slaughtered if a new badge had just been foisted on us but can we afford such luxuries?
    It’s Claret and Amber and it’s a F@@kin’ chicken (copyright Harry)…end of

    • Postscript… I had to revert to Wiki to find the date for the switch from “The Paraders”. The answer 1981 ( I would have guessed mid -eighties). Suffice to say there was no consultation with the regular City fans ( all three thousand of ’em!)

  5. I really don’t see what the fuss is about, it’s fine.

    Think about how many new logos the BBC has had over the last 30 years. Each time, there’s disquiet over the new one, yet ultimately we get used to it and don’t really care.

    Besides, a football club is not about a badge – that’s usually just an accessory for a goalscorer to kiss, while feigning love for a club which they soon abandon when joining a different team. A football club is about community, about tribalism and occasionally, entertainment! The badge is merely a symbol to indicate allegiance.

    And 78 pages to justify the switch is about 78 pages too many. Likewise, my reply is far longer than is necessary. Sorry.

  6. Was any supporter seriously clamouring for a rebrand? I don’t think so. But I can see how such an exercise might score kudos in the football industry for those who carry it out.

    In the survey, in response to the question about whether to go ahead with a change, there are four different options for yes and only one for now. I’ve written enough surveys myself to know why this is. Sorry City, but this feels like someone’s project from the first year of Business School.

    If the badge needs updating for practical reasons, then I’m sure there are easy fixes that could be made to the current badge. But there is something about maintaining the current badge as it maintains a link to the recent past – to the 98/99 team, the fights to stay in business, to the Parkinson team. At a time when football is constantly changing and doing so at an incredible speed, there is something valuable in maintaining these links. And my disappointment with this offer is that I also thought that those at the club understood the importance of this too.

    • I was thinking it looked like something form a task on the Apprentice myself…

      Terrible end product, whole load of corporate speak to justify it (including a very biased debrief of the market research)

      And yes – there is a reason why the questionnaire is designed in the way it is…

  7. Have worked for many years in communications / marketing / PR for several organisations. If an organisation thinks its logo / visual identity really needs to be changed for some reason, then there is a school of thought which says that once you are happy with a new look that has been devised then just get on with implementing it – it is highly unlikely that a change will please everyone. In City’s case, the best way forward would arguably have been to simplify the existing logo for the digital age – for example (and as mentioned in constructive comments by some City fans on social media), Norwich did this fairly recently with widespread approval from their supporters etc. Let’s hope the arguments about City’s badge don’t detract from the growing feel-good factor around the club since the arrival of Mark Hughes…

  8. I’m a happy clapper. Happy is a good emotional state to be in rather than depressed and clapping is a sign of support and encouragement. So I’m happy with the new logo. The old one is crap, outdated and tired. Just introduce it and everyone will have forgotten all about it come January – even the miserable jeerers.

  9. I don’t like the new badge at all, I thought that it might just be me but I’ve asked all my city supporting friends and family and none seem happy with it. Also on social media the vast majority of comments I’ve seen don’t like it.

    Do we really need the need the new logo/rebrand at the minute when things finally seem to be looking up for the club again?? It’s just seemed to have brought a bit of negativity to the club when things were starting to look good.

    In the cost of living crisis Is it really worth spending the money on a rebrand on something that doesn’t need fixing?? Surely ttst money is best spent paying the bills (and keeping our 3pm kick offs) and keeping the tickets as cheap as possible knowing a lot of our fans are probably struggling.

    • Honestly I’m flabbergasted by your comment
      Cost of living crisis vs day to day year to year costs of running a football club
      It’s not possible to put everything on hold whilst the current fad problem the public has passes just so the optics look good
      This is real life. This is business. Not politics or social media bubble where we’re all virtue signalling to pretend we understand the “struggles” of the common people.
      Grow up
      Yes it is worth spending the money to do this exercise and to do it right.
      The club has probably spent no more than about 30k on this. Chump change in the grand scheme of things.
      Finally I live the new badge. I live the story they’ve told on how they got there and if they implement it I’ll support it 100pc.
      Unfortunately I expect they’ll listen to the “noisy (slight) minority” on how they live the existing badge which none of them have actually considered, thought about for the last 30+ years or could probably even draw, if asked to. Yet now it’s a matter of public “ownership” and is in some way distasteful due to the “cost of living crisis”
      Come back to me when we’re in the next crisis please

      • 30k is not ‘chump change’ for a club at our level. And it’s certainly not when the output looks like that. I think people are getting too hung up on the ‘oh people just don’t like change’ trope. I’ve been looking forward to a new badge for a while, but am gutted that my trepidations about the risk of them making a mess of it were well placed. It’s great you love the story they told, but if you haven’t been told how they ‘got there’ (like 99% of the people who see this) none of the design decisions make sense or look right. You shouldn’t need to explain to someone WHY the lettering looks really daft and bulbous, or why it’s all different sizes, or why you have a shield with half its elements missing, with the animal mascot pointing the wrong way (there’s a reason animals face left in shields!) ‘Yes it is worth spending the money to do this exercise and to do it right.’ – too right, so give us a decent looking result! Also, I don’t think the argument being made re. cost of living has anything to do with individuals, it’s clearly more; if you’re honestly proposing moving kick off times to 1pm because of lighting costs, WHY are you sinking a not-insignificant amount of money into something like this?! Couldn’t it have waited, one, two years? I’m personally glad they’re changing it, it’s just such a shame that this is what they’ve ended up with. Even Leeds fans are laughing at it.

  10. I do like the new badge. I think it’s assertive; doesn’t look like a chicken on a stick. The current badge may remind some supporters of past good times but , in truth, it is also a reminder of some (more) appalling seasons. It’s anaemic and is well past it’s sell-by-date. The biggest mistake was in asking 14000 people what they wanted. My old boss used to say “JFDI” and that’s what the club should have done.

  11. To ask the opinion of 14,000+ people, that’s guaranteed to make the job much more difficult…..

  12. Fantastic article Jason, thank you.
    For me, I prefer our current badge to the proposed new one. I’ve provided my feedback to the football club in their survey.
    I’m a bit disillusioned with the football club at the moment. The fact that we, as supporters, can no longer buy a programme on game day, is very disappointing. I know that what was offered last season was very poor and I do wonder if that was done on purpose?
    Also, for me, the loyalty points system for away tickets is wrong. Yesterday, a 25 year season ticket holder who attends away games on a frequent basis, couldn’t buy a ticket for Grimsby Town.
    I’m usually positive when it comes to Bradford City, but at the moment, the football club seems to be making too many changes, which aren’t making things better.

    • Totally agree
      No programmes just to save a few bob and save the planet.
      The loyalty point system is not at all fair. My wife and I have been going to matches home and away for many years. I have lots of purchasing history over the years but this counts for nothing under the new system. Despite me having a season ticket and making several purchases in the club shop plus attending functions, I have not been able to get a ticket.for an away match this season as I cannot accumulate enough points to put me in the priority group as the same people are buying all the tickets

  13. How about this for a conspiracy theory?
    The club want to introduce a new badge/ logo.
    They also realise that with things going wellon the field( at last) they also need to improve club/ supporter relations.
    They introduce a new badge/ logo design which is intended to provoke the negative feedback that we are seeing.
    They then say they have acted upon the majority of fans feelings giving the impression they listen to fans.
    Immediate uplift in the relationship between club and fans.

    My big question in the clubs claim.that the current badge is not working is ‘what evidence is there of this’????
    Equally what evidence is there that this new one will work?

  14. It’s been designed using Adobe Illustrator, a computer programme that can create perfectly straight lines and amazingly accurate bezier generated curves, by a reasonably talented graphic designer, whose skills were evident in the promotional video. But there’s the problem – as slick as the presentation was, the result is completely soulless, it looks exactly what it is; a computer generated, flat, lifeless and characterless mess, barely worthy of a first year graphic design student. Bradford council did a similar exercise a few years ago when they decided to redesign the city’s crest, the beautifully drawn boar’s head and rams were discarded in favour of yet another CAD generated lifeless creation, no doubt in the name of progress but destroying all semblance of heritage and artistry in the process. Basically, it’s a very poor design and the club are putting a lot of time, effort and money into what can only be described as a turd polishing exercise.

  15. Really like the proposed new crest. I hope they stick with it
    We’re very fortunate to have a club that values our inputs as supporters and attempts to do the right things by us.
    There are many many other clubs who talk the talk but vis a vis they do not walk the walk….

  16. Lewis is right ,it looks like a chicken.
    I also read we are getting rid of the stripes as a devoted fan of 66 years ,they should look back at the totally hideous shirts of the past.
    When I started watching we played in plain Amber shirts and Claret shorts.
    Whatever outfits I will support my BCFC

  17. Sorry but I thought the C was a G at first sight. (Specsavers here I come)
    Regards EC.

  18. ‘The majority seemingly against the new logo’. How have we come to this conclusion? Through Twitter?

    Twitter is an echo chamber of negativity and often there’s a silent majority who don’t want to get into the back and forth where they are just shouted down.

    Generally customers/supporters don’t like change. I’ve seen this regularly where outrage happens and Twitter convince themselves they’re right because they get lots of people in their echo chamber agree with their sentiments. They also follow and are followed by people who generally share the same views and not to mention Twitter algorithms will see them targeted with content that seemingly back up those views. However, business metrics trend in the right direction through a silent majority.

    In this case I actually think there’s a majority audience who are indifferent, don’t really care too much about a crest that has changed periodically anyway.

    I generally am of the view that if the people who are employed to run our football club think this is the right move to move our club forward then I back them. They are seemingly doing a good job.

    I don’t like the crest, I don’t dislike it I just think it could be better. Then again I can’t say I’m overly fond of the existing crest.

    As for the money spent I do think it will look better on merchandise and therefore probably commercially more than pay back and I would imagine probably has efficiencies that reduce costs too. Just speculation though as I also won’t be reading 70 + pages about the why.

    • It’s a shield, not a crest, and this is one of myriad the problem with the new design. There’s so much marketing talk about the inspiration behind certain elements; the bigger B, the shape of the typeface inspired by the stance of the bantam, the significance of its raised foot, the C raised on top of the AFC – but they’ve completely lost sight of the fact it looks, objectively, terrible. They’ve kept the shield shape because that’s what came back in the original survey, okay fine, but then they’ve shorn it of all the things which made it an ACTUAL emblem i.e. the motto banner underneath and the crest (which used to be the bantam at the top – this also why it looks weird moving it inside the shield and facing toward the right, two more rules broken!). I’m not massive on heraldry, but those rules exist for a reason, namely that without them a shield doesn’t look like a shield (and has blatantly been designed by someone who doesn’t understand them). They’ve taken disjointed bits of feedback and crowbarred them into the design without thinking if any of it actually looks good. Does anyone who hasn’t read that 78 page document know the reason the B and C are different sizes is because they want it to seem like the ‘city’ is being supported by the football club? No, they will look at it like everyone else and wonder why the letters are different sizes (and in some weird gothic font that I still can’t get my head round as to why they thought the batman typeface would work – maybe a play on bantam?)

  19. Why don’t we change Bantams to Chickens as well 🤣 to add insult to injury.

    I think our badge is the best it has ever been and when we even play Premier teams in cup’s etc. it stands out amongst all badges and looks the business, as most Fans will agree it stands out on all shirts and if we change to the other it will disappear into the background, I always buy a shirt every year and I wait until all 3 kits have been released to choose and I got the blue 3rd kit this year which is a great shirt, but if we do change to the new badge then that will be me just wearing retro shirts in the future and my usual shirt money will not go to the club anymore.

    Hopefully this will all disappear soon and the existing badge will continue…

  20. I am fine with the new logo.

    It’s un-fussy and clearly identifies the club when used online, on paper or on textiles.

    In an era of social media and a culture of venting anger through many mediums I think surveys are heavily skewed to negatives, because many people are like me and “just OK” with things but aren’t particularly inclined to engage as would someone who was passionately for or against the issue at hand.

    As a result the negative response always seems louder.

    In the end I support BCFC not a garment, an image, a player, a stadium or a manager. Therefore all those things can and do change over the years and I will still support them.

    The only thing that stops that is changing the name and the city (e.g. the great betrayal of the old Wimbledon fans). The real identity for me is that we play in Bradford and we are called Bradford City.

    If we start saying everything else is important we open a can of worms with questions such as:

    -did our history as a club start in 1981 when we adopted the colours and badge?
    -What were we before then?
    -should we be held hostage to our stadium if in 2027 the insurance fund puts the rent up from 500k to £1m?
    -Is the future viability of the club more important to our history?

    Of all the things to be worried about as a city fan this badge is bottom of the pile snd an unwelcome distraction from the entertainment on the pitch!

    • I’m in a very similar mind to you. History and tradition are very important. But two things: 1) it’s also tradition that things change in all walks of life. 2) history and tradition only gets to be important when an entity is a going concern and can continue to thrive in the future. No use having great traditions and being extinct.
      Interested to see which way the club goes in this new badge

  21. Waste of money … and where is the absolutely essential black?

  22. Coming from a lifetime in the Textile industry my immediate thought is that this badge change is as much to do with Macron supplier factory production costs as BCFC image update.
    If you can print in 1or 2 colours direct on the shirt it’s cheaper than a 3 colour pre made awkward shape badge. More profit for the supply chain me thinks.

  23. As a City fan I’m not keen on a font that makes us look like Bradford Gity. Do we want to be called the gits? I was never a fan of the Bee Gees and would hate to hear Saturday Night Fever being played as our lads run on to the pitch. Please can the B be shrunk to the same size also? I don’t mind that the new chicken looks like an ostrich from the neck down. The star looks good though.

  24. When I first saw the badge I didn’t like it. I thought it looked like something a junior school kid would come up with. However, after looking at a number of other mimimilistic/’simplistic’ looking badges of clubs the likes Wolves, Forest, Swansea, Cardiff, Brighton and others, I can see how in time the proposed badge will be easily identifiable and instantly associated with Bradford City in the footballing community. Other minimalist but immediately recognisable ‘badges’ that we instantly recognise are all around us, think McDonalds, Burger King, Pringles.

  25. My offer of free Marketing Consultancy to the club is still open and available. I have over 30 years experience in devising,creating, changing and adapting Brands and their strategies for Brands big and small.
    Perhaps the club should consider that Brand is not just about a logo, its about how you behave towards and treat the fans and that includes the shambles that is getting refreshments at half time (last time, pies had run out at half time!), enough soap in the toilets and simple manners from some of the stewards.
    Now that would be worth spending time and money on.

  26. As it was acknowledged, my offer is now closed. Good luck with the new “Brand”.

  27. Whoops! I meant to say “NOT ackknowledged”

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