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Sports Direct's new identity by venturethree to equalise people through sport | #BehindTheIdea

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Sport is the greatest equaliser. It unites people under a common purpose, leveling the field in activities where everybody is equal and everyone is pushing to succeed. With this in mind, venturethree partnered with Sports Direct to design a new identity for the brand, one that could be unique and recognisable everywhere – through the power of a simple equals sign.

The new identity is vibrant, colourful and overflowing with positive purpose, showing genuine care in the communities that Sports Direct is looking to cover and cater for. We don't often cover visual identities in this column – but this one truly is exceptional.

Today we are getting Behind the Idea following a chat with Graham Jones, Creative Partner at venturethree.

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What was the brief?

Our brief was to uncover and articulate a North Star for Sports Direct, uniting and galvanising the entire business - from leadership to loading bays - behind a transformational idea, whilst simultaneously elevating what the brand stood for.

We also went further - focusing on accessibility, inclusivity and empowerment. We wanted the rebrand to represent people of all ages, races, genders, abilities and disabilities. We knew we had to ‘champion the legend in everyone’.

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How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?

The conversation took place against the backdrop of a struggling retail sector - schools closed, sports on pause, and with the shift to WFH (before the acronym took hold) having begun.

With this in mind we wanted to bring across in our initial visuals the ‘power of sport’ idea in bringing people together. We got to this core thinking of the rebrand direction quickly and it felt natural to create the ‘equaliser’ symbol in representing equality and inclusivity. We were aware the Sports Direct logo had 98% unprompted recognition in the UK so keeping the red and blue colour - whilst perhaps making them more vibrant - was agreed as being important in positioning Sports Direct as a symbol brand.

Tell us more about the concept. How did it come to life, and why was it the right choice?

The concept captures a national zeitgeist that started in lockdown but isn’t going away any time soon. At the time, people were allotted one hour a day to exercise, athletes had to stop work and, for many, the structure of a gym or a training programme was replaced by the trainers languishing under the stairs.

Recalibration was needed. And we knew we needed to celebrate the fact that sport is for everyone.

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What was the production process like? What was the biggest challenge?

WFH. Zoom. Slack. WhatsApp.

An opportunity to do something new and celebrate the trust we had in each other.

What is one funny or notable thing that happened during the production process?

Notable for the uncertainty that was all around us. The client team were exceptional, however, and did a brilliant job of motivating everyone, proving we are capable of upholding our creative standards despite the circumstances.

What’s the main message of the identity and why does it matter?

In a word, equality. It matters because, when has it not?

What is one unique aspect of the identity?

The unique aspect of the brand is that it needs to work in conjunction with some of the most famous brands in the world. So we created the equaliser logo as a simple, powerful icon and one that would work in partnership with other brands.

How long did it take from inception to delivery?

We worked fast – just a couple of months.

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What do you hope it achieves for the brand?

A change in people’s perception of the business. And themselves. 

Credit list for the campaign?

venturethree – Brand agency
MOX – Creative agency
The Specialist Works – Media Buying partner
Troublemaker – Social Media
Romans – PR
Academy – Production Agency

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