Crowned in Glory: Charlotte Football Club is Born
(Photo used with permission: Kevin Ruck)
by Brad Joiner
After 188 days of waiting, we finally have a name. We are Charlotte Football Club.
On Wednesday, July 22, the club held a virtual event—now a common occurrence in these strange times—to unveil their new crest and the long-awaited name. They went to great lengths to keep it a secret, with even the locals and personalities that appeared in the presentation not knowing the true name until the morning of the event. They previously recorded separate versions of their lines for each one of the final name options.
Members of the Mint City Collective were invited to participate in the festivities as well. As we all waited on Zoom in a virtual "breakout room" mere moments before the presentation, there was palpable nervous energy, but the good kind.
There were lots of smiles and bodies unable to sit still, like kids waiting to unwrap their birthday gifts. There were spirited exchanges of enthusiasm and expectations of what’s to come.
There was even talk of who would be the first to admit they were drinking at 10:30 in the morning on a Wednesday. Let’s be fair: It was certainly a day worthy of a liquid lunch.
Shortly after 11:00 am, at long last, the name was revealed: Charlotte Football Club. The crest appeared in a slick animated video package, featuring a white crown on a bed of Panthers blue, with the new name and the words “Minted 2022” surrounding it. (Obviously, we at the Mint City Collective were thrilled with the last bit.)
So, was it worth the wait? The name and crest have been the source of much debate and criticism since the unveiling. Many have expressed their love for the new look, while others have decried it as lackluster and a “safe” choice. For me personally, as a designer and a self-professed brand nerd, Charlotte FC was the ideal option and the crest is simplistically complex.
The face of the organization
Brand reveals of any kind are a delicate affair, but they’re especially polarizing in the world of sports. A logo and a name may not mean much to some, but for the organizations those brands represent, they’re a crucial part of the foundation.
The brand is the face of the team, the mark that’s flown on flags, and the name that’s chanted among fans like a tribal symbol of pride. It’s the mark that’s imprinted on the childhoods of thousands of kids, as they plaster their walls with banners, pennants, and posters that feature their favorite players. It’s a symbol that can unite people from the surrounding area and the world at large. Most importantly, it represents tradition.
So, it’s no surprise that the revelation of a name and logo has become a grand event. In the case of Charlotte MLS, eight name options were given to the public a few weeks prior to the official reveal. Many were quick to divide themselves into various camps, dubbing themselves Townies, Crownies, and yes, even Sugar Gliders.
There was sufficient support for most of the choices. Charlotte, of course, was named for Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of King George III. However, Charlotte Town was the original name of the city in the late 1700s. While a popular choice among supporters, Charlotte Town FC was reportedly never a serious option within the ownership group.
Charlotte Crown FC was another leading favorite. Strictly from a visual perspective, you could say this was the pseudo-winner, as the crest reads Charlotte (Crown) Football Club.
Carolina Gliders FC had its share of support as well, though I assume ironically, as it sounded like a holdover from the NASL. (Anyone remember the Carolina Lightnin’ from the early 80s?)
One name that several critics mourned on Twitter for its lack of consideration was Queen City FC, which was problematic for several reasons. Perhaps most importantly, the ownership group of the USL’s Charlotte Independence has trademarked Queen City Soccer Club. Probably not a smart move to steal their name. On top of that, Cincinnati and Buffalo, amongst others, also claim the name “Queen City,” so there’s obvious potential for conflict.
In the end, Charlotte Football Club is certainly a safe option, but it's also a wise one. For years, MLS clubs have been criticized for needlessly mimicking European clubs with names that barely represent their cities. (Looking at you, Real Salt Lake.) Others have followed the traditional American route of tacking on a mascot, like the Sounders or Whitecaps.
Perhaps Charlotte could have done the same, but it doesn’t feel necessary. Nicknames are often generated organically in football, especially overseas, where many clubs are simply named after their region or town and the fans decide what to call them. That seems to be the expectation of the Charlotte FC ownership as well, and the frontrunner appears (at the moment at least) to be the Crowns.
Breakdown of the crest
As stadium-mates of the Carolina Panthers, and with Panthers owner David Tepper as the CLTFC owner, the colors were a no-brainer. Avoiding the need to rebrand the entire stadium for one team or the other lowers operating costs, as the blue seats and color scheme are already in place and serve both clubs.
Several within the MCC had hoped for a unique accent color, like mint green or even gold, but the colors are a complete overlap from the Panthers. That’s not to say our future kits won’t feature some other color. (Historically, football kits don’t necessarily follow the club’s color scheme to the letter.)
As for the crest itself, there has been some criticism of the look being too generic and basic. At first blush, you might be right, but the meaning behind the look is just as important as the look itself.
The shape is certainly nothing unique, taking on the roundel form that’s so prevalent in modern sports branding. There are six in MLS, several in other American sports leagues, and countless others globally. However, I’d argue that in our case, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel—err, roundel. (For more insight on roundels, see Alex Stefanescu's piece, “So you think circles are boring?”) It’s not just a circle for the sake of being a circle; there’s a legitimate meaning for the city of Charlotte.
As most know, and as the Mint City Collective has promoted since their founding, Charlotte was the home of one of the first branches of the Mint of the United States, a result of the gold rush of the 1820s. The first coins minted there were the rare $5 Liberty Gold coins. When you tie that into the city's current standing as the leading financial hub of the South, the coin shape makes perfect sense.
Personally, I believe gold could have been included, especially since gold was the foundation on which Charlotte’s financial legacy was built. Perhaps it was too close to Philadelphia Union for their liking, though. Silver is still an acceptable substitute, as nearly all American coins in circulation are silver-colored. (That said, silver is not currently a major part of the color scheme, but gray is listed as one of the four main colors.)
The crown in the center, obviously representing the city’s moniker of the Queen City, is also not particularly creative. But again, there is more meaning here than you’d suspect. The four points of the crown and the four circles are representative of the city’s four wards. It may also be a nod to Charlotte’s bicentennial coin, produced in 1968, which featured a simple crown in the center. Could our crown have been rendered a little more stylishly? Maybe. But in truth, it doesn’t need to be.
Something to bear in mind about logos is that they’ll most often be seen at a reduced scale and at a distance. Smaller details are lost at those sizes, and that’s the primary reason why most companies have simple, minimalized icons for their logo.
Other applications should be considered as well, embroidery in particular. The more detail a stitch pattern has, the more expensive the job, and the higher the potential for loss of detail. For example, check out the first New Era cap available in the club shop. Even for something as straight-forward as our crest, it’s unfortunately not a great-looking stitch job. The white outlines are much thicker than they should be, and the details of the typography are somewhat muted. (Full disclosure: I bought it anyway.)
Speaking of the typography, it’s definitely unique to the league and alludes to the royal past of the city. The font choice here is Albertus, which is (maybe not so) coincidentally the same font used on some of the road signs in London. I personally really like the use of “MINTED” as opposed to founded or established. It’s a small detail, but a thoughtful one and a nice representation of the concept overall, and certainly a not-so-subtle nod to the team's largest supporters' group.
The secondary mark with the interlocking CLTFC letters has been an even bigger hit, with some wishing it was the primary mark of the club. I’m a fan of it myself and hope to see it implemented in some really creative ways. Maybe a mint green kit with the lettermark on the chest...? One can dream.
While the crest has had its critics, the real factor that matters upfront is how it’s received by people willing to throw money at it. Good branding can become a product itself, and that’s especially true for sports franchises. If merchandise sales are any indicator, the new look has been a smash hit. Mere minutes after the online shop opened, inventory was selling out at a rapid pace.
Most of us in the MCC Slack were lamenting the fact that we missed out on scarves and flags, as they were snatched up before we could even finish the checkout process. Graciously, though, the stock was expanded and more of the initial merch was made available by the next day.
In an afternoon, post-reveal Zoom meeting with MCC, club representatives mentioned that merch sales had exceeded every milestone they set for themselves. It’s hard to argue with results like that.
By Friday morning, the product range had grown exponentially, offering new sweatshirts, women’s clothing, jackets, and a host of other options. The only downside is waiting for Fanatics to fulfill the orders, which at the moment won’t ship until early to mid-August.
If you’re not a fan of the name or the crest (or both), I’m not going to try and change your mind. On the contrary, I understand your dissatisfaction. Some like yourself have even decided that they won’t follow the team simply because they don’t like the branding. But I’d challenge those people at this stage to ask themselves: Are you merely a fan of the brand that represents a club? Or are you a fan of the club that represents a city?
Of greater importance will be how the on-field product performs. When our team takes to the pitch for the first time, our brand, our colors, our crest, our name all come to life and their full purpose will be realized. The players will carry that brand into battle and their performance will become its real legacy.
However you feel about the branding, remember what matters most: We are Charlotte Football Club, and this club, this crest, is ours.