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Out With The Old… Image Courtesy Of: https://www.dezeen.com/2017/01/17/juventus-football-club-faces-fan-uprising-after-minimalist-new-logo-graphics-design/

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And In With The New? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.dezeen.com/2017/01/17/juventus-football-club-faces-fan-uprising-after-minimalist-new-logo-graphics-design/

 

Today I learned some disturbing news from the football world. Italian giants Juventus F.C., from the Northern Italian city of Turin, just unveiled their new badge. The response from fans on social media sites, such as Twitter has—understandably—been less than enthusiastic. Personally, I think the new badge is absolutely hideous. But my concerns, aside from that, are more than just about aesthetics (even though I know a little bit about football shirts); maybe it is because I had just finished teaching a Sociological theory class about Karl Marx when I learned about the badge’s redesign that I was so disturbed. My reaction is on two levels: I am concerned about the reasoning behind the badge redesign as well as the insulting nature of the badge redesign; it is one of the more disgusting manifestations of industrial football that I have seen.

 

Some Of The Social Media Responses, Many Of Which Were Below The Belt:

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.goal.com/en/news/723/serie-a/2017/01/16/31618802/is-this-a-joke-juventus-break-the-internet-with-condom-logo

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.goal.com/en/news/723/serie-a/2017/01/16/31618802/is-this-a-joke-juventus-break-the-internet-with-condom-logo

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.goal.com/en/news/723/serie-a/2017/01/16/31618802/is-this-a-joke-juventus-break-the-internet-with-condom-logo

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Image Courtesy Of: https://www.dezeen.com/2017/01/17/juventus-football-club-faces-fan-uprising-after-minimalist-new-logo-graphics-design/

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Image Courtesy Of: https://www.dezeen.com/2017/01/17/juventus-football-club-faces-fan-uprising-after-minimalist-new-logo-graphics-design/

 

The commodification of football—and the subsequent transformation of fans into consumers—is something that many sports scholars (and fans) have written about in recent decades. Because of the passionate support of football fans, most teams can expect their fans to continue to consume—regardless of team performance—which makes the game a sound investment; as one business commentator laments “let’s face it, even when a team finds itself in the bottom rankings year after year, their fans still remain incredibly passionate about them. Wouldn’t it be great if customers felt that way about a business?”. The commentator’s words are telling as she compares business logos to national flags: “Nations created national flags to bring their tribe together and give them an identity. The flags of the big brands are their logos; helping fellow members of the tribe recognise each other and tell the world which tribe they belong to”. Aside from this disturbing connection between nations and corporations (which has, admittedly, been achieved by most industrialized nations in the West), the idea that the brands we consume should somehow give us—as individuals—an “identity” is extremely unsettling. Yet it is part and parcel of the “commodity fetishism” Marx critiqued (and that I explained to my students). This background may explain why the redesigning of the Juventus badge is so appalling.

 

The Reasoning and the Insult

 Juventus’ club president Andrea Agnelli (one of the scions of the Agnelli family—owners of FIAT, Ferrari, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, and—since 1923—operators of Juventus FC) is certainly a capitalist, and his justification of the re-badging of Juventus is interesting: “This new logo is a symbol of the Juventus way of living. We spent a year trying to find out what the new markets want but also to show a sense of belonging and looking to the future.” Furthermore, a club statement said the badge

represents the very essence of Juventus: the distinctive stripes of the playing jersey, the Scudetto — the symbol of victory — and the iconic J for Juventus. These three elements make up the DNA of our club.

The black and white stripes are the defining trait of the new visual identity and can be adapted to fit any setting. The Scudetto represents the club’s determination to strive for victory, now and forever.

And finally, the J — that most distinctive of initials — occupies a special place in the heart of every fan, not least [former owner] Giovanni Agnelli: ‘I get excited every time I see a word beginning with J in the papers.’

The new logo brings these three elements together into a unique, universal symbol capable of representing not just a football club, but an identity, a sense of belonging, a philosophy. It is a logo for the modern age in that it conveys its message effectively on any physical or digital format.

Most important of all, however, is the way the new logo boldly leaves behind the accepted wisdom of classic football badges to blaze its own trail.

(From espn.com)

Juventus worked with design agency Interbrand to come up with the new badge, and at an event unveiling the new logo (at the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo Da Vinci in Milan; the irony of such an ugly badge being unveiled at  place named after a Renaissance artist should not be lost on anyone) the company’s chief strategy officer Manfredi Ricca added: “No club in Europe has so far been able to transcend sport and convey the philosophy behind that. If there is one club capable of taking that step, it’s Juventus – the brand is synonymous with ambition and excellence and these are principles that can inspire truly unique experiences. The new visual identity has been designed to boldly take the club’s spirit into new, unexpected realms.”

 

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Mr. Agnelli’s Picture At The European Club Association Page Has Yet To Change As Of 17 January 2017. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.ecaeurope.com/about-eca/structure/eca-executive-board/andrea-agnelli-fc-juventus—ita/

 

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Or It Was an Identity. The Interbrand Homepage On 17 January 2017. Image Courtesy Of: http://interbrand.com

 

The absurdity of these statements should be self-evident, but I will conduct a short textual analysis regardless. Mr. Agnelli claims the new badge is “a symbol of the Juventus way of living” while Mr. Ricca says the club “transcend[s] sport”. Well…ok…but Juventus is a sports club. If the club wants to represent a lifestyle, they could use their new badge to sell luxury sports cars (Italy has a lot of them). If the team wants to “transcend sport,” they could use their new badge to sell polo shirts (I believe Lacoste transcended sport, for instance…but the crocodile is more attractive than Juve’s new logo so, I take it back). If the club wanted a “logo for a modern age” then they could use the new badge to sell computers (Apple has done a good job with a minimalist logo). But the fact that Juventus is a football club—and not an automobile manufacturer, clothier, or electronics manufacturer—remains. As many sports scholars note, football clubs like Juventus represent a certain identity. This identity is not, however, the kind that Juventus’ press release is thinking about when it says the new badge represents “an identity, a sense of belonging”. The “identity” that the new badge is trying to represent is a re-formatting of the traditional supporter identity, one that is trying to transform the Juventus supporter into a consumer (much like Turkey’s attempts to re-form their own society, something I have written about earlier); the real “identity” that Juventus (through its old badge) represents is one rooted in the local and steeped in history.

That is why the most insulting part of Juventus’ move stems from the fact that it is a blatant form of extreme capitalism, and represents an even more blatant disregard for the type of history football clubs represent. One of the major differences between American sports and European football is that, in American sports, teams change their logos (not badges) all the time in a bid to increase profits; new logos=more sales of team “gear”. Since the clubs are newer in the United States this does not result in an outcry (even though older teams, like the Boston Red Sox baseball team, cannot think of changing their logo). But Juventus’ move—coming from a club formed in 1897—is representative of the globalizing and homogenizing culture fostered by neoliberalism which aims to separate human beings from their families, cities, countries, and even beliefs in a bid to make all of humanity a homogenous group of consumers and producers serving the economic system. In this case, the re-badging of Juventus is a direct attack on culture.

The old Juventus badge is couched in national and local culture, and explained in a text written by (I imagine) Juventus enthusiasts on Wikipedia:

Juventus Football Club’s official emblem has undergone different and small modifications since the 1920s. The last modification of the Juventus badge took place before 2004–05 season. Since then, the emblem of the team is a black-and-white oval shield of a type used by Italian ecclesiastics. It is divided in five vertical stripes: two white stripes and three black stripes, inside which are the following elements; in its upper section, the name of the society superimposed on a white convex section, over golden curvature (gold for honour). The white silhouette of a charging bull is in the lower section of the oval shield, superimposed on a black old French shield; the charging bull is a symbol of the Comune di Torino. There is also a black silhouette of a mural crown above the black spherical triangle’s base. This is a reminiscence to Augusta Tourinorum, the old city of the Roman era which the present capital of Piedmont region is its cultural heiress. Juventus was the first team in association football history to adopt a star who added one above their badge in 1958 to represent their tenth Italian Football Championship and Serie A title, at the time and has since become popularized with other clubs as well. [Note: I have kept the hyperlinks to relevant historical and cultural links for readers’ enjoyment].

It is telling that the color gold—representing “honor”—is absent from the new badge. The fact that the charging bull—indeed a symbol of the city of Turin—is absent from the new badge is also telling; it is an attempt to separate the team from its community, making the fans truly mere consumers and nothing else, with no ties to their community.

 

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The Charging Bull, Now Absent From Juventus’ Badge, As Seen On The Flag of Turin. Image Courtesy Of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turin

 

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Juventus Badges Through The Years. Note the Zebra From 1979. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.dezeen.com/2017/01/17/juventus-football-club-faces-fan-uprising-after-minimalist-new-logo-graphics-design/

 

I hope that Juventus fans resist this change, like the Liverpool fans who resisted rising ticket prices and the Borussia Monchengladbach owners who stood up for their fans in the face of employers when their match had to be replayed. Only by uniting in the face of intrusive—and offensive—attacks from the corporate world can human beings hope to retain a semblance of individuality.

Interestingly, one (possible) proponent of the new badge is ESPN employee, Craig Burley. Coming from someone employed by one of the most ardent commodifiers of sport in the world, his comments are not surprising—but they are extremely insulting. Mr. Burley opines “When your sole worry for the day is a club logo you need to get a life.”

 

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Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/CBurleyESPN/status/821295143106080774?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

 

I can explain to Mr. Burley why the fans are so upset, while taking offense myself to the comment “get a life” (since I have one of those). Juventus’ decision to re-design their badge is an insult to fans because the club is treating their supporters as mindless consumers who will accept the change since they (in the club’s estimation I’m sure) have no choice. As Eric Cantona once said, “You can change your wife, your politics, your religion, but never, never can you change your favorite football team”. Maybe so, but I can honestly say that—if I were a Juve supporter—I would leave the “old lady” and never look back if they choose to carry on with the new badge. Juventus’ actions are an insult to the history of a team, a city (Torino), and a region (Piedmont) as well, since the latter two have been effectively erased by the new “modern” badge (logo) which is also an insult to aesthetics (did I mention the new badge is ugly?).

 

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The Unforgettable Eric Cantona. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.quickmeme.com/p/3vqfqb

 

Perhaps events like this (and Liverpool’s attempt to raise ticket prices last year) will act as a wake up call to the pitfalls of extreme capitalism. Sports clubs—and corporations—cannot continue to treat people like mindless fools, expecting them to spend their (hard earned, I might add) money on goods that go against their ideals. Reliance on this kind of a system, that shows no respect to consumers, will have to give at some point since—without consumers—extreme capitalism cannot survive.

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