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Branding: Racing Louisville FC

MIAMI (23 July 2020) NWSL expansion to Louisville was announced in the fall of 2019. This month, the new Louisville expansion team in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) revealed its name and identity. The beautiful game has indeed found an enthusiastic home in Louisville.

In a definite nod to famous clubs around the world tied in with local tradition, the new team announced its brand and name: Racing Louisville Football Club.

Racing Louisville FC begins play in the spring of 2021 with financial support from Soccer Holdings, LLC, the same group that operates two-time USL Champions Louisville City FC. Both the women’s and men’s sides will play their home matches at the brand new Lynn Family Stadium. A new training facility for both teams at Louisville’s Champions Park, a little less than two miles away, is also ready. It includes 30,000 square feet of indoor space with separate locker rooms for the women’s and men’s teams as well as seven outdoor fields. The facility was built at a cost of $15 million.

Top Design Firm

One of the top designers of sports team logos, Matthew Wolff Design Firm, was commissioned by Soccer Holdings to come up with the visual image and branding for the women’s team. The design house is credited with come up with two of the very best football logos in Major League Soccer — crests for Los Angeles FC and New York City FC. However, up until now, Wolff had only been involved with branding for men’s teams, and the commission to create a brand for Louisville’s new women’s team presented a new challenge he said. “Absolutely, different aesthetic, different approach, different consumer,” Wolff said.

Wolff views every crest as a simple graphical illustration of how a club represents its local community. While there would obviously be some crossover, that is fans of Louisville City who would also be fans of the women’s side, Wolff was main concern was the adaptability of his design to merchandising. (He has worked with Nike for four years and has gained insight into “understanding how the visual identity could translate to merchandise.”)

Wolff’s approach also takes into perspective the “larger landscape.” By this he means taking into account the other teams in a league, and in this case, other women’s clubs around the country. “You have to take into account other sports franchises, professional, amateur and college, in the market. You don’t want to have anything too similar to what’s going on in Louisville and in Kentucky.” It’s worth noting that this is an area that adidas seems to not focus on when working with MLS teams on colours and brands.

The Racing Louisville FC logo combines the symbol of Louisville, the fleur- de-lys with a unique colour palette: lavender and midnight violet.

“The stylized lily flower from the former royal arms of France, the fleur-de-lys is firmly embedded into Louisville’s history and culture. It is a symbol of identification and a point of pride.”

The seal of Louisville, Ken.

When thinking of colours, Wolff said he looks for opportunities for a club to “own” a colour. The shades of lavender and midnight violet are unique in the women’s soccer world and in Louisville. “There’s a real opportunity to own that colour (lavender),” Wolff said. In fact no other sports team in North America uses lavender. The designer selected lavender in order to blend well alongside Louisville City FC’s deep purple.

In a characteristic typical of Wolff’s work, he elected to bring in a third colour, mint green, as an accent. This colour blends well with the primary palette, is likewise unique in North American sports, and is a nod to the drink made famous by the Kentucky Derby horse race, the mint julep. Bringing in the mint green as an accent would be good for merchandise, Wolff believes.

“We couldn’t be happier with the work Matthew has done in creating a unique and identifiable brand for Racing Louisville FC,” said Soccer Holdings’ president, Brad Estes. “The colour palette and core elements in the crest allow for creative merchandising opportunities we hope our supporters will love.”

Use of the word ‘Racing’ in a football team name is seen around the world, and in particular to clubs that are located near auto, horse or cycling circuits. Racing Louisville thus becomes the first team to make use of the nomenclature in the United States. Louisville is famous for Churchill Downs, where the major local sporting event of the year, the Kentucky Derby, is staged in front of a world-wide audience the first Saturday of May each year.

According to the highly-acclaimed designer, his firm consulted with female soccer fans and players, as well as others, while he was in the conceptual stage. In the end, the consensus was the inclusion of the fleur-de-lys would be a good choice as a key element of the design.

“I noticed Louisvillians view their city as the intersection of the south and midwest, along with a cross section of colours. One identifying mark is the leur-de-lys,” Wolff said. “The stylized lily flower from the former royal arms of France, the fleur-de-lys it is firmly embedded into Louisville’s history and culture. It is a symbol of identification and a point of pride.”

“The four fleurs-de-lis can serve as a secondary mark — shown here on the club color palette: lavender, midnight violet, and mint green.”

Matthew Wolff
Supporters involved in process

Estes said that the team listened to input from its fans. “Supporters are invested in everything that the club does, from branding to community initiatives to the performance on the field. So it was very important for us to bring our supporters into the mix early, as we made these key decisions that will impact us for many years,” he explained.

The x-shaped element that divides the four fleur-de-lys is referred to as the “crossroads” element. Wolff said this element of the crest was a direct result of the community focus groups. Local supporters were queried about where the city was truly located. “Midwestern values, southern charm,” he was told over and over again, and pretty much every possible combination of those concepts. Wolff quipped it was pretty much a situation of “insert your ‘midwestern’ blank and ‘southern blank.’”

The “crossroads” element divides the four fleur-de-lys.
Typeface

Another essential element of any sports team design is the choice of a typeface. Wolff also designed the typeface used on the Louisville crest. His challenge was to be certain the new visual identity carries itself forward even in the choice of font. “I think a lot of typefaces in sport right now, or over the last five or 10 years, have tried to be aggressive, almost quite machismo.” Wolff said he thought the typeface should be one that expresses the elegance and tradition of Louisville.

Because of the focus on a classic, elegant theme, Wolff went with a serif font. The writing calls to mind vintage bourbon labels. The choice of a serif font also complemented the four fleur-de-lys in the logo. “The fleur-de-lys is very ornamental, it’s got flourishes to it,” he said. “Marrying that up with the curves of the serif — this is getting nitty gritty — just seemed like the right thing to do.”

Most sports teams that have unveiled new crests or re-branded in recent years have used a sans-serif typeface. This lends an air of modernity to the design. Additionally, it is considered easier to read sans-serif fonts at smaller resolutions, a bonus in the digital age.

First sponsor signed

PNC Bank has signed on as a founding sponsor of Racing Louisville, serving as the club’s official bank with its logo to appear on the backs of kits.

James O’Connor, Soccer Holdings’ executive vice president of development, is tasked with leading an international search for Racing Louisville FC’s coach and technical staff before signing players

“We are very excited to launch our brand — a first step in bringing our team to life,” said O’Connor, who initially constructed and coached LouCity’s championship-winning roster before overseeing Major League Soccer’s Orlando City SC. “We have interviewed many coaching candidates in the last few months and are in the final stages of selecting our first coach for Racing Louisville FC.”

“We will provide our supporters with a great technical team ranging from coaches to players who will benefit from our world-class stadium and training facilities.”

For readers in the Louisville area, Soccer Holdings, via the LouCity ticket office, is now accepting season ticket deposits of $50 per seat toward Racing Louisville FC’s inaugural campaign. Click here or call (502) 568-2489 for more information.

Lynn Family Stadium, the soccer-specific facility just east of downtown Louisville, will be able to accommodate 15,304 fans once COVID-19 protocols are lifted.

By Ken Russo

My work in the business of soccer applies skills acquired in law practice with a focus on the sport's commercial, communications and sporting components. Russo Soccer aims to inform, educate and engage in dialogue on news and relevant issues in the game.

Um advogado por formação, concentro meu trabalho nos negócios, comunicações e operações de equipes no futebol mundial. | Abogado con fundación avanzada en comunicaciones, enfocado en los negocios del fútbol y las comunicaciones. | Je suis un avocat experimenté dans les affaires de football.

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