ESPN, the main sports channel in the U.S., first aired a live college football game in 1984 and slowly built up its programming. Today, ESPN has a full-on programming line-up and infrastructure for ESPN College Football that broadcasts over 250 games per season with pre-game shows, post-game shows, mid-game shows, and weekend-prep shows that air not just on ESPN but on its myriad offshoots ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Classic, ESPNU, and sister network channel, ABC. ESPN College Football isn’t just a chunk of TV time like “the morning news”, no, this is a huge franchise-level juggernaut that feeds the insatiable obsession of the U.S. with college football — something that, after 16 years of living here, still baffles me. But I digress (and I sympathize with the part of our audience that is scratching their heads about the subject of this post). To kick off this season, ESPN College Football introduced a new on-air identity designed by New York, NY-based loyalkaspar.
There is some additional background and a linear presentation with some more images at loyalkaspar’s project page.
The previous logo and on-air package were designed by Troika in 2010, which got a fairly good reception when we covered it and I still like the aesthetics and rendering of that logo. Even the on-air package holds up well. Although loyalkaspar, in their project page, say they are trying to avoid either the “Engineering Department” and “Frat House” aesthetics that dominate sports on-air packages the new logo definitely fits in the “Engineering Department” category with a highly aluminized look and some elements that would look right at home in the front of a car. It’s not a necessarily pleasant logo but it’s bold, macho, and definitely feels like something that can easily be broadcast in a bar with 30 TVs side by side. The custom typeface is actually kind of cool when you see the type specimen but when it spells out the word “College” all the notches become highly distracting. Another element that’s relatively nice on its own but gets lost in the logo is the icon that has an abstract half football shape and serves as a quick read for “ESPN” and “Football”.
While I don’t like the logo — and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m the opposite of their target audience — the ecosystem created around (and in) the logo is actually quite impressive, ambitious, and well thought-out.
First there are the modifications or alternatives to the logo itself that can accommodate all the different segments of the programming as well as the different stages of the season, from regular game days to the championship, all without losing the unifying aesthetics.
To celebrate the epic sweep of college football, loyalkaspar developed the visual narrative around the concept of “Football Nation” with beautifully stylized matte-painted landscapes. Imagine an Alabama billboard flourished with Bear Bryant’s classic houndstooth pattern behind the backdrop of a Tuscaloosa night. They created a unique tapestry like this for all 128 teams. These different scenes are juxtaposed to promote weekly match-ups.
loyalkaspar Provided text
The winning concept and execution for me is the stuff above that does offer a new way to present college football without being Engineering Department or Frat House. The on-air package uses a mix of landscapes — that are half Mad Max and half Field of Dreams — to present the match-ups for each game and the renderings come in different times of day so that if it’s a night game, the sky is dark and if it’s a morning game, the sky is bright. It seems like such an easy concept but when you consider the amount of work needed to pull it off — numbers in the image below — you realize what a complex task this was.
To boot, everything comes in pan-able 3D worlds that the camera can zoom through and there is flying airplanes and lights that go off and flags that wave in the air and things that sparkle. If I cared about college football this would complete the epic-ness of watching so much of it but, since I don’t, the best I can do is appreciate the amount of work that went into this, the appropriateness of it, and the impressive execution of the landscape concept.