Mascot logo’s as they are crudely names, have taken Esports by storm. It seems like every 1 in 6 Esport teams worldwide have adopted these highly illustrative identities in the hope it will make their team stand out. But here’s the catch – it doesn’t. In fact this is the first tell-tale sign that your team doesn’t understand how branding works, what your identity is and the message you’re trying to communicate in the ever-so-busy world of Esports.
Now I know what you are going to say, London Lynx – our own brand of Esports team uses a mascot logo. By that logic, yes you’re right. We use a illustrated Lynx on a golden crest as our Esport clubs identity – so for me to sit here and insult Esports and the use of mascot logo’s seems contradictive right? – It would, had I not spent 4 years learning what branding is.
A good starting point to learn about branding is by reading Marty Neumeier‘s The Brand Gap and Zag. Both of these books provide a lot of insight into where any industry can easily go wrong with understanding the true nature of their brand.
A brand is not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.
By far one of the best quotes in the book.
Now first I need to clarify why I chose London Lynx, the name, the identity and everything around it to explain the next part. As I originally intended for London Lynx to be a portfolio piece for a business venture. London Lynx was a spin-off of the highly respected and recognised Esports team Copenhagen Wolves – which at the time were involved in the earlier years of CSGO and the LCS. They had a sportive appeal that matches the high glossed appeal of NFL, NBA and NHL over in the States. Which to me became a highly influential part of the design process in order to understand branding on a larger commercialised scale. In short, I wanted this Esports team to sell well on apparel – and this is what became a bigger issue later on. It’s easy to make a mascot logo from a design perspective, but it’s much harder to justify it.
During my research into what to name the team, I quickly settled on using London as the main city of Choice for this UK based Esports team with an NFL feel to it. It’s the most multi-cultural city in the world and is recognised globally at it’s core when you associate words with it, the words that would associate most with London are Monarchy, British culture, Famous roads, the list goes on really. But how do I translate this into an Esports environment? – We’re a small team realistically and we’re going to have to fight up against some tough businesses competition from the likes of Fnatic being based in the UK and at the time too, Dignitas. So I couldn’t call use London Lions – As the lion sit at the top of the food chain with nothing below it. The Lion is an animal that is considered to most, a King.
When I discovered the Eurasian Lynx and did more research into the Lynx/Bobcat family – I started to realise this sound a bit more like us. A Small but versatile predator that can survive in some of the worlds harshest terrains. The name rolled of the tongue and that was that – London Lynx was born. An Esports identity that at it’s core takes the values of British Culture and combines it with the Lynx’s cunning abilities to adapt and survive in harsh climates. This justifies the use of the Lynx as our mascot, our identity.
Understanding the history behind Mascot Logo’s.
When you dig deep into the culture of Mascot logo’s you find the the history behind the brands name, the logo’s all relate to someone or something that represented the beliefs of the people at the time. The New England patriots (formerly the Boston patriots) for example the name come from their heritage as the driving force behind the Union war forces during the American civil war – hence the traditional colours used blue,red and white. The logo originally designed in 1960 was of a man wearing this uniform hiking a ball up a hill. Which later was redeveloped in the 80’s again to what it is now in the 00’s. The mascot itself serves as a culture connection to the clubs history and heritage. It wasn’t designed the way it is because it “sounded cool” or “looked dope”.
But when you consider the history of Esports only spanning (now it’s 4th decade). The history of clubs and the logo’s they use are entirely different. They embody their own culture and this is the point every Esports team who uses a Mascot logo without carefully planning it is missing. The largest teams in the world do not use any mascots of any kind. They are designed to become a symbol of culture rather than represent an existing symbol of culture – Like the London Lynx logo does. UoL (Unicorns of Love & G2 Esports) – Are the most recognisable brands that use a sort of mascot – these two brands have taken time to discover the narrative of their brands mascot (identity) and you can see this in Level99’s original sketches for G2’s identity design.
So why have Mascot logo’s become so popular in Esports? The easy answer is to accept that the underpaid, underage and undertrained designers Esports teams pay £50 to make are wanting something that looks cool with their stupid team like “Team Hydroxis” Or “Neo deity gaming” and the demand for them since Copenhagen wolves went bust has spun out of control.
But I believe the biggest reason why Esports teams are adopting this design language without thinking clearly about it is because the people who make these ridiculous team, just wish they could be apart of another brand’s history. They settle with making their own Esports team that uses this language to communicate that brand’s message – In context this could be considered the same as a religious cult that takes the message of religious text and makes it into something it’s not.
Remember as kids when you would play Cops & Robbers or Doctors and nurses (or anything of the same sort) where you would pretend to be something you aren’t for fun – in psychology this is a way in which Children prepare themselves for adulthood and the day-to-day stresses of what is expected from those high pressure environments, the same can be said here in Esports. These are people who are trying to understand the scale of operations involved in running an Esports team and are trying to prepare themselves to work those sectors of industry.
That’s a lot to take from just having a mascot logo right? – But if this is the message I receive when I look at your identity then this is a problem. You’re going to struggle to find investment if investors and competition alike can ask – where is the history, where is the meaning? What does your Brand communicate that other brands don’t? These are all questions that most Esports teams are ignoring and it’s creating a very dilute and confusing message of who you are to potential investors, players and fans.
If not a mascot then what?
Ask yourself this question, what is our team? Who do we support, what do we do, where are we from? Why are we different? If you can’t find answers to these questions then you are in the wrong space. Before you naming, buying domains and premade logo’s. Sit down and answer these questions come up with a message – that message is what you are trying to communicate the Esports community.
The first mistake Esport teams make is naming their teams in the same manor as others. Take for instance, Dignitas which when you google this in the latin dictionary literally comes up with their brand message as a description of what the word means – Prestige, worth, merit.
Natus Vincere – in latin translates to Born to win. So if these brands have already got the latin naming thing down to a tee and have done for years, why are you trying to out-play them from day one? There is a saying in Branding – Don’t try to be another coca-cola, try and be the first you. Redbull before they were bought by the coca-cola franchise sold themselves as the original energy drink. Redbull gives you wings, the slogan caught on and so did the demand for a “energy drink” that wasn’t just a caffeine supplement. GFUEL sells itself as the clean energy company – whilst backing Faze Clan (one of the worlds biggest Esports brands) as it’s brand’s ambassador (sales-bitch in short).
What about naming your team – team ember? Again, Team liquid and Team Newbee and Team SoloMid have already established themselves as THE Esports teams. It’s just copycatting.
Counter-metric Gaming? You mean Counter-Logic Gaming, Edward Gaming – the list goes on. Google already shows you these teams first because they’re bigger, more known. You’re fighting an uphill battle with two mini-busses tied to your ankles.
Start with the message – What are you doing differently to EXISTING Esports teams? Where are you executing this message, who is it for?
In Brand strategy we start with opening a spreedsheet like table that splits up into these categories –
General Column – Say any word that comes to mind when it comes to Esports and Esports team (this is also referred to as the warmup)
Culture Column – What makes us who we are (Again just using buzzwords to Describe you)
The User Column – Who are our consumers (Buzzwords of who they are and they do)
The Voice Column – What you are saying (Buzzwords)
The Benefits Column – How are the Users going to feel about the voice (Buzzwords)
The Value Column – What are the Users going to gain (Buzzwords)
Now in these columns you can use words and phrases multiple times if you can’t think of other words or phrases to use. But at the end of filling in these collumns you can start to put together an idea of what you are trying to create in depth and form a brief – the brief is your problem that you are trying to solve.
Let’s say from doing this exercise you realise you’re “trying to create a Esports team that embodies a certain culture that’s aimed at a young demographic, your trying to voice (communicate) the importance of small competition and steady growth and that this makes Esports athletes feel like they are improving their chances of going pro which in turn is what they gain from being apart of your brand.”
This is who, what and how – now you can name the team around these core values effectively and from this you can start to put together a picture of what that looks like.
Who do we hire to get this to work?
If you are seriously considering to build an Esports team, hiring a business or individual that specialises in strategizing branding is crucial in establishing yourself as a brand that will make a difference. Your brand’s message is so important for on-boarding the right staff and players and especially important for reaching out to the community for support, if you’re just another Mascot logo Esports team competing in a low level league you’re not inspiring anyone to be themselves.
If I want to watch content done the way that LCS team’s do content I will watch them, not you. So use your strategy to stand out and be different.
Most Esports teams under-value design and way it’s used. If you’re serious about doing Esports as a business, you need to be pushing the £0,000’s to get off the ground. That’s not just for signing players but for your content management too as this is more important than who you have competing. You need investors to reel in the better players and that’s the only way you’re going to collect trophies and if you haven’t already read my sponsor deck post, you should as this and that tie in together in securing a long-lasting future in Esports.
What if we can’t afford this?
There is a fantastic series of videos by thefutue – on youtube which demonstrates and explains how you can use brand strategy to improve and understand your brand’s message which I have linked below. They call this system CORE.