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Our City Extra: Anatomy of a Brand

It has been over a year since Orlando City unveiled its new crest and branding scheme for MLS. At the time, social media was full of Orlando supporters' takes on how the new top tier club would be represented. With almost a half-season on the books in our inaugural campaign, lets take a look at how it all looks now.

Relieving a building of anticipation, Orlando City launched its new crest last May. Most Orlando City fans loved the new logo and embraced it with the same level of excitement that they would later be showing the club during its inaugural campaign.

Now that the badge and all its internal elements have become a crucial part of fans experience with the club, I wanted to revisit the branding. How effective are its symbols and elements?

The above launch video for Orlando City's MLS badge reveals the thinking behind the crest. Let's break those down individually:


It is all in the name. The "City" moniker is well placed in both the club's badge and its overall brand. As long-time residents of the City Beautiful will know, we've been a city building its identity for a very long time.

When MLS launched in the early 1990s, it chose "typical" American sports monikers for the most part, while trying to give them unique names. Teams like the Dallas Burn and San Jose Clash filled out the MLS league table. As the league began to better understand the nuances of the U.S. soccer landscape, they re-branded the clubs with more traditional footballing names. The Dallas Burn became FC Dallas, for example.

"City" fits perfectly into this more updated branding of MLS clubs. It harkens back to our early connections with Stoke City, and there were no clubs in MLS with the "city" name. Through a strange turn of events, Orlando City launched its inaugural campaign with fellow newcomers New York City FC. Orlando could not have seen that coming in 2011 when they were just an MLS hopeful, and the New York Cosmos were the front runners for the "second MLS team in New York" position. This means that this MLS season has become a "Tale of Two Cities" so to speak.

Despite having to share the "City" moniker with New York, this has been extremely effective in helping to both brand the club but also more importantly marry the club to the "City Beautiful."


Long time fans of the club will remember a time when purple was merely an accent color to the overall red and white color scheme. Our first USL championship game in 2011 was even billed as a chance to "Paint the City Red."

Red is, of course, an iconic footballing color, that conjures teams like Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United. Domestically, the Chicago Fire, Toronto FC, Real Salt Lake, New York Red Bulls, and FC Dallas all wear red as a primary color for their kits. While founder Phil Rawlins almost certainly chose red and white to honor his hometown club Stoke City, the City front office intelligently shifted to the unique purple.

After Italian club Florentina and Spanish side Real Valladolid, only the biggest world soccer junkies or the most avid of FIFA 15 players could name a team that lines up wearing purple. (For the record, these are the teams that wear purple that I could find: Perth Glory (Australia), Austria Vienna (Austria), KFC Germinal Beerschot (Belgium), Toulouse FC (France), Újpest FC (Hungary), Fiorentina (Italy), FC Argeş (Romania), Politehnica 1921 Ştiinţa Timişoara (Romania), NK Maribor (Slovenia), Real Valladolid (Spain), Real Potosi (Bolivia), Deportes Concepción (Chile), Defensor Sporting (Uruguay), Sanfrecce Hiroshima (Japan), Kyoto Sanga FC (Japan), Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica), Fovu Baham (Cameroon), SK Dynamo České Budějovice (Czech Republic), and Hakoah Ramat Gan (Israel)

Needless to say, purple does the job of identifying the club, both nationally and internationally. It has also become instantly iconic locally. Helped by three years of purple Lions in the USL, you can't see purple in Orlando and not instantly associate it with the club. The Citrus Bowl has become a sea of purple on game days, while soccer fans are easily visible out in public wearing their MLS gear.

This aspect of Orlando City's branding has been spot on and perfectly executed.

The Lion

As a long-time supporter of Orlando soccer, I was pleased to see the club embrace the city's heritage in the game. Regular followers of the blog might recall two articles we've run on both the 1980s and 1990s Orlando Lions. These clubs, while unsuccessful in their push for the top tier of the U.S. pyramid, laid the groundwork for Orlando City.

The Lion is well placed within the club hierarchy. Rightfully, the "City" title lands front and center, while the Lion is nearly placed into the club's brand much as the "Red Devils," "Toffees," or "Gunners" are in their respective English Premier League clubs. You can say Manchester United without having to explain they are the Red Devils to most soccer fans, as much as you can express an opinion about the "Red Devils" knowing people will know you are talking about Manchester United. The same is mostly true for Orlando, as you can use the terms "City" and "Lions" interchangeably. It provides a nice broadening of the brand and associates the club with an iconic predator.

Poor Kingston, the Orlando City mascot, still seems to be finding his way into the hearts of the Orlando City faithful. Mascots are hard to get right, and time is the best way to win over Orlando fans. Face it, didn't we all think Stuff the Orlando Magic mascot was a little ridiculous the first time we saw him?

With both its historical connections to Orlando and its adaptability as an iconic figure, the Lion works for Orlando's overall branding.

The Mane

The badge features the lion's mane as a sun with 21 tips meant to represent the club's status as the 21st MLS club.

The sun image is fantastic. As the club seeks to beat out whatever ends up happening in Miami as Florida's team, and seeks to be the soccer capital of the Deep South, the sun features well in those plans. Add into it the state motto of "The Sunshine State" and our position as a top tourist destination for our sunshine, I'm sure this aspect of the crest won applause from anybody involved in the Visit Florida tourist campaign.

I could give or take the 21 points, but overall I think the mane as a symbol of the sun is a clever way to brand the club and add depth to the badge.

SC vs FC

The club took the unique stance of calling themselves Orlando City Soccer Club vs. the more traditional "football club" that teams use around the world, including in MLS. I'll save the debate of the word "soccer" vs. "football" for the playing fields and the pubs, but needless to say, it's a heated topic among the most passionate, with most preferring the FC title.

Orlando sought to connect with the established idea of "soccer" as the preferred term in American sports due to the popularity of that other game we call "football." In a place like Florida, dominated by three NFL teams and at least six major NCAA teams, going with "soccer" makes local sense. On a global scale, I think it still works as most Brazilians and Englishmen know what soccer is, even if they don't use the term in their own language.

The curious question here is, did the club need to add "SC" or "FC" to the name? Could "Orlando City" accurately represent the club? With the exception of an "OC-SC" chant here and there, I don't know many who refer to the club by its full name.

Overall, major kudos are in order for Orlando City's marketing and front office staff, who have created this brand that represents both our club, but also our city. With a few minor exceptions, the club has presented something that is both unique and iconic. The elements of the club's branding are easy to get behind and have helped to create both excitement and atmosphere in the Citrus Bowl and around town.

For a new club building its history from the ground up, the major elements have tapped in perfectly with the ideas of building a legacy and tradition for the club. I predict this is a badge that will stand the test of time and become synonymous with greatness as the club progresses, both on the field and off.