Quite often when a football club receives foreign investment the initial bubble of excitement bursts as decisions from the top leave the fans disenfranchised, disillusioned and disenchanted with the direction the club is going. Clearly the best way to keep a fan base invested is success on the pitch, however, it is through decisions off it which ultimately contribute to the growth of the club outside it’s loyal fanbase.
Since taking over Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2016, the Chinese international conglomerate and investment company, Fosun, have done just this. After an initial disappointing season in 2016/2017, the club have continuously grown from the bottom up. The appointment of Nuno Espirito Santo has seen the club win promotion to the Premier League in 2018, before finishing the 2018/2019 season in 7th, the club’s highest league finish since 1980, leading to European football for the first time in 40 years.
Nonetheless, Fosun’s lofty ambitions lie further as they look enhance the reputation of the club as an attractive brand to foreign fans. Whilst a strong Portuguese contingent and the signing of Mexican Golden Boy, Raul Jiménez, have led to a growing fanbase in Portugal and Mexico, the clubs ambitions lie further.
As much their project is reliant on continuing success on the pitch, it is design decisions off the pitch which have led to the growth of Wolves as a global brand. Following the club’s promotion to the Premier League in 2018, the decision to rebrand the club was taken in order ‘to appeal to a more global audience’ and the responsibility was given to London based design studio SomeOne. The aim was clear: to make the club’s image more attractive to a wider audience, all whilst keeping in touch with the city’s roots and the club’s long-standing history.
“Ensuring the involvement of the fans was crucial to us, after all – it is their club. With their help and all the stakeholder’s involvement, we have an outcome we are all really excited about and are ready for what promises to be a great season.”
- Beth Baines, Account Manager, SomeOne
Bar 3 seasons between 1993-1996, in which the town crest was used, the Wolf head has been the key feature of the Wolverhampton Wanderers badge since 1979. Since that inception, the design and features continued to develop until 2002 when the club settled on a more aggressive and simple design which has subsequently been one of the most recognisable crest designs in the country, if not the world.
Starting with the figurehead of Wolverhampton Wanderers, design studio ‘SomeOne’ looked at the established face of the club – the Wolf head. The new design led to a three dimensional Wolf head with a sharper and more aggressive feel, with the design nodding at the city’s industrial past. “The three-dimensional nature of the head is inspired by the history of ironmongery in Wolverhampton. Using the idea of traditional forging, but recontextualised to reach a modern global audience.” In doing this the designers have recognised the importance of keeping the club’s historical and ‘local’ identity in order to keep fans on board.
“We knew not to touch the club’s iconic badge, but instead, use it as inspiration for a new 3D brand property. The depth of the 3D wolf (particularly the version with lit eyes) adds a dynamic, competitive spirit that can’t be reflected in flat vector forms.”
- Tim Green, Designer, SomeOne
Elsewhere, SomeOne also created two new sans-serif typefaces, Wolves Display Cut and Wolves Display. Once again, the bold designs have nodded at the cities cultural history by giving a ‘nod to the industrial heritage’, whilst the Display Cut font distinctively features the glaring Wolf eyes that reflect the club badge.
“Taking inspiration from the iconic club badge, we designed two bespoke typefaces. We wanted to give a nod to the City’s industrial heritage, so opted for a bold and condensed style. By using the geometric forms of the eyes, we began removing cuts and angles from the letterforms. Moving forward, this allows the club to speak in a distinctive and ownable voice, without relying too heavily on the badge.”
- Ian Dawson, Designer, SomeOne
Both the Wolf’s Head and two bespoke typefaces have featured across most of Wolves branded goods since 2018 and will continue to be available for fans to buy across the world. Furthermore, they have also been a key feature at all Wolves home games and, thus, will be captured on TV screens across the world.
The result of Someone’s rebranding may have gone under the radar for many, but it has been a major part of the clubs growth under the guidance of Fosun. Whilst Nuno and his players will look to build on last season’s achievements, Fosun continue to find new ways in guiding the club to grow off the pitch, and design studio ‘SomeOne’s’ rebranding will be at the very forefront of it.
Written by - Will Lewis