Responses by Simon Chong, creative director, Gretel
Background: Digital sports media company The Athletic has over 1 million paid subscribers, placing it in the top five of subscribed news sites, along with the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The company’s subscribers are discerning and passionate sports fans who crave a deeper connection to their teams. As The Athletic’s audience continues to grow, it needed to develop its brand story and expand its creative toolkit.
Reasoning: The sports reporting category often goes wide but not deep. Quick recaps and highlights build consistent engagement, but lose the nuance and culture around the game: the visceral benefits that make up the heart of The Athletic’s best coverage. The new identity captures the brand’s sense of care, rigor and optimism as a strategic foundation, ultimately creating a powerful and distinct brand on top of an already superior product.
Challenges: The vast majority of sports content is free. The challenge was creating an elevated brand that people would care about and ultimately pay for. The in-depth sports stories were already of a high caliber. The Athletic needed a brand that matched the quality of its writing.
Favorite details: The brand rollout has been very impressive with the app, website and social media being true to the work and resulting in constantly varied, yet consistent expressions. The brand campaign launched at the same time sports came back. Anchored by the power of sports and its ability to fundamentally change us, it placed The Athletic amongst the excitement of sports fans, just as sports returned.
Visual influences: Using the inline A logo as a starting point, the system expands to include the inline throughout the identity, becoming an recognizable and consistent brand signature. The new wordmark is designed to pair with the existing A logo and the new system. Using slab characters, it expresses a thoroughly smart, modern brand with a nostalgic spirit.
Specific demands: The project was largely completed during lockdown, while getting used to a new world, home work environment and way of working. Sports had also stopped during this time so it was certainly challenging to think about sports in its absence.