No one gives a shit about the F1 logo and that’s… fine.

I noticed today Forbes has picked up on a Reddit AMA by F1’s Director of Market Research, Matt Roberts. During the AMA, Roberts revealed that over two-thirds of fans were indifferent about the new logo (first launched at the back-end of 2017).

Well. I am SHOCKED.

 

No wait. I’m not shocked at all. This is absolutely to be expected, and in some ways, a bit of a result. Let’s look at some of the reasons why. First of all, any brand that goes through such a huge change to their visual identity will do so in the full knowledge that not everyone’s going to like it. It’s impossible to please all of the people, all of the time.

More importantly, we need to understand the reasons for the rebrand, before understanding how its success is to be judged. F1 grew massively in the 70s and 80s under the ‘guidance’ (most would say force) of Bernie Ecclestone. A man known for his deal-making abilities, but not necessarily his ‘progressive’ attitude towards any communication technology more advanced than a mobile phone. When Liberty took over F1, there were very clear requirements to sort out F1’s appalling internet and social media presence.

F1’s marketing until that point had relied very much on the individual venues, teams, and media outlets to promote the sport. But there were some bizarre limitations in place. You couldn’t, for example, shoot video at a race and distribute it. I mean you could, but by doing so you’d be subject to a copyright claim by F1 and the lawyers would absolutely come at you. Imagine that in the era of Instagram Stories and Facebook Live. Well, it was happening.

OLD VS NEW

So alongside the modernisation of F1 communications, the new F1 logo came in alongside a much larger set of brand assets, design systems, and official delivery mechanisms in order to attract a much younger, social network savvy audience. These changes gave F1 a cohesive, consistent identity across all media for the first time in its history.

The new logo was just a small part of that. Did anyone really care? No, not really. Did it cause outrage? No, not really. And that’s an equally important perspective in an era where people still remember Gap having to revert to their original logo after a terrible rebrand attempt. And remember the furore over the London 2012 identity? And how quickly that outrage dissipated once its full context was understood?

The point of it all is this: A new logo does not represent a massive change to an organisation these days. It’s expected to be flexible, to adapt to any media, be used on billboards and tiny profile pictures on a watch face and still look half-decent. But more importantly, what surrounds it, its sense of style, character, the way conversations around the brand are framed, as well as how visual elements are framed, are what makes a brand.

Social media output and engagement has been noticeably improved over the last year, with the official F1 social accounts becoming almost notorious for their sense of humour and character, as well as the more expected race and results information. Teams and drivers also have become far more accessible and engaging through their own social accounts, with F1 taking a far more lenient stance on what can be posted during a race weekend. This is important as the drive towards pay-per-view will have a substantial impact on the way F1 reaches the more casual audience.

Lewis Hamilton said he didn’t think the new logo was as ‘iconic’ as the old one (which had been in use for about 25 years). He said that within a week of its launch before the full context of its use became apparent. And whilst he may still hold the same opinion, I personally believe F1’s visual identity is stronger than ever. As with any brand, the logo is just a design element. An important one, but still just one element.

THE LOGO ISN’T THE THING HERE. AND THAT’S FINE.

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