One brand, 50 logos: Music’s localised branding for five-a-side pitch provider Powerleague

Powerleague was founded in Paisley in 1987 and now runs football centres in the UK and in Amsterdam, offering five and seven-a-side pitches, classes, tournaments and children’s parties. The rebrand forms part of a £40 million expansion plan – Powerleague plans to open 13 new centres in southeast England in the next three years and has ambitions to become ‘the undisputed home of five-a-side’ in Britain and abroad.

The company’s new branding gives each centre its own logo in the style of a football club crest. Designs were created in-house at Music and reference local landmarks, culture and heritage, while avoiding colours or symbols associated with football teams in each area.

Tottenham’s crest references historic tower Bruce Castle and the pink icing on Tottenham Cakes, while Birmingham’s depicts the intertwining roads of Spaghetti Junction. Hamilton’s features a knight which appears on the town’s coat of arms, while Paisley’s references the now world-famous Paisley print.

Music ECD David Simpson says the aim was to create an identity that wouldn’t feel “too corporate”. The concept was inspired by the idea of local pride and community – 90% of Powerleague players live within 10 miles of their local centre and the brand was keen to promote each centre as a hub for local football, offering not just pitches but classes and community events.

“We researched each club and found the right story on which to build the crests,” says Simpson. “We wanted them to be authentic and have meaning, but we also needed to steer clear of any affiliation with football clubs in the area.

“Most of the ideas came pretty easily, but we did spend time making sure we had the overall feel of the badges right,” he adds. “We wanted them to have the right mix of modern and traditional, with enough differentiation but also enough similarities that the identity would hold together across all clubs…. The idea is that individual clubs can create their own collateral … we love the idea of a local artist doing something inside (or outside) a club, for example.”

Sheffield’s crest is inspired by the city’s steel heritage – orange and white stripes represent hot steel coming out of the furnace and form an S shape. Tottenham’s crest features a graphic representation of Bruce Tower while Blackburn’s features the red of the Lancashire rose and a reference to the origins of its name, which means ‘black burn’ or black river
Sighthill’s crest references local landmark Arthur’s Seat, Paisley’s creates a football shape out of the Paisley pattern and the flaming cannonball in Portobello’s references  an old crest of the town featuring a cannon and ship. It’s believed that the name derived from these two elements, Port, the section of the ship and Bello, the sound of cannon fire. Adam Rix and David Simpson worked with Music designers Dan Lancaster and Lottie Brzozowski to create the crests

Alongside the new logos, Music has created a comprehensive identity system that combines “cool and relaxed” imagery by Sarah Jones with a monochrome colour palette and rounded sans typeface LL Brown. Jones’s images include portraits of players and supporters as well as shots of goal celebrations and friends watching a match.

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Powerleague and its sub-brands have also been given individual crests
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Powerleague’s comprehensive brand book, with guidance on logos, type, tone of voice and photography

The Powerleague Group and its sub-brands, the Powerleague Foundation and Powerplay (which runs five-a-side leagues) have also been given new shield-shaped logos: Powerleague’s is black-and-white, Powerplay’s, bright green and the Foundation’s, a warm shade of orange.

New guidelines on copywriting and tone of voice recommend that brand copy should be concise, upbeat, engaging and informal without being over-friendly. Copy for brand centres in Manchester and Wembley combine gentle humour with references to the local area and ads promoting pitches will feature short and direct lines such as: ‘Get yourself booked. Call your mates. Choose your slot.’

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Brand copy for local centres. The brand’s tone of voice is intended to be friendly, informal and concise

“It was important to get the right balance [between being informal and respectful],” explains Simpson. “Football has a chequered past and football culture amongst lads can veer over the wrong side of the line. We wanted welcoming with wit, to reflect the positives of modern football.”

Marketing director Caspar Nelson, who worked with Music on the rebrand, says the identity aims to reflect Powerleague’s aim of making football “welcoming and accessible” while giving club owners more autonomy to produce their own communications.

The branding is designed to appeal to all age groups and both men and women – not just people who play at centres, but those who might come to watch matches or hold a private event in a function room.

Simpson says it replaces an inconsistent and outdated identity that didn’t reflect the company’s focus on the community aspect of football – the brand’s previous logo featured an uninspiring italicised word mark in a green box.

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Brand imagery shot by photographer Sarah Jones

“The logo had been around for a long time, created when the business was in a very different place, and was just that – a logo,” says Simpson. “Beyond that … any visual identity that did exist, or guidelines, were largely ignored.

“We felt that the overall impression of this was very corporate and didn’t reflect any of the values that you might associate with football, a place where football is played or a football club. People are passionate about football, it’s important to them – their team, the colours, the league they play in, the friends they play with. We wanted an identity that reflected this,” he adds.

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Powerleague’s website
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Powerleague’s website

Keen-eyed sports fans will recall that the American MLS (Major League Soccer) adopted a customisable shield device when it rebranded in 2014, replacing its football logo with a shape that could be adapted to carry the colours of competing teams.

Music’s identity uses the symbol to create a dynamic system that gives each local centre its own look and feel, while still being instantly recognisable as part of the Powerleague group. The new look is fresh and contemporary but crests provide a nod to footballing heritage and the symbols used by football teams since the game’s early days.

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Staff uniforms
Mocked-up ads showing the new branding