Qatar Sports Investment’s takeover of Paris football club PSG has brought big-name players and a Champions’ League quarter final spot. But an ongoing row over the club’s new logo reveals that not all fans are happy with their club’s wealthy new owners
We know the recipe by now: perennially under-achieving European football club is bought by massively rich middle eastern backers and is transformed overnight. As with Manchester City and Malaga, so it also goes with Paris Saint-Germain. With carte blanche for star-shopping, PSG has acquired players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and, most recently, David Beckham. Under manager Carlo Ancelotti, the club has qualified for the UEFA Champions’ League quarter finals and, at the time of writing, is five points clear at the top of Ligue 1.
PSG club badge 1970
And from 1972, which Eiffel Tower, cradle and fleur-de-lys
At just 43 years old, the PSG is a young club but, alongside the much older OM (l’Olympique de Marseille) is already one of the most popular in France. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Pas Sur de Gagner’ (not sure to win) by its supporters, it has been likened to ‘a rebellious teenager, exasperating, unpredictable, but full of charm and charisma,’ not unlike the city itself.
Typographic badge adopted in 1992
1996 saw a return to the previous approach
40-year anniversary badge
Now, at 43, the rebel has grown up and come in to some serious money. PSG’s Qatari president, 39 year-old businessman Nasser al-Khelaifi – the first non-French PSG president in its history – has big ambitions for the club – to turn it into a world class sports brand, and money’s no object. Aside from recruiting star players, the stadium is being renovated, a new training centre created, the infrastructure improved, an academy for training local talent founded and the funds for the PSG Foundation tripled.
This is the biggest transformation in the club’s history. To mark this turning point, the club has just rejuvenated its brand identity. Four studios pitched, three French, one British to a succinct brief; to place Paris at the heart of the club’s brand identity.
Previously, the predominant feature of PSG’s insignia was a red Eiffel Tower on a dark blue background with, underneath, what must be one of the oddest symbols of a football club anywhere – a baby’s cradle. This cradle is King Louis XIV’s, who was born in St Germain-en-Laye. Next to the cradle was a tiny fleur-de-lys, (or lily), symbol of French royalty.
In Dragon Rouge’s new badge the circular insignia with its red Eiffel Tower is maintained, as is the fleur-de-lys, but the date of the club’s creation and the cradle symbol have been dropped. The bleu-blanc-rouge insignia colours are more luminous, the fleur-de-lys now appears, appropriately, in gold. A new brand statement ‘Rêvons plus grand’ (Let’s Dream Bigger) in a bespoke typeface consolidates the message.
“The result is a timeless brand which is resolutely Parisian yet totally international,” Lisa Deschamps of Dragon Rouge told CR. “The logo has a greater synthesis of ideas and a more immediate impact, and is now ideally placed to capture the imagination of football and sports fans around the world.”
“The evolution of the Paris Saint-Germain logo marks an important stage in the implementing of our ambition,” adds Nasser Al-Khelaifi, “namely making Paris Saint-Germain one of the world’s greatest sporting brands.”
But some diehard PSG supporters are less than thrilled. The takeover itself caused an uproar. The arrival of multinational players was seen as adulterating the ‘blue blood’ of the team, (the only Paris-born player is Mamadou Sakho). Then, before the official unveiling of the new brand identity, a version of the supposed ‘new logo’, featuring a red Eiffel Tower on a sky blue background, was leaked to the Le Parisien newspaper. The sky blue was dangerously close to that of rivals OM. All hell broke loose.
Leaked version of what was wrongly purported to be PSG’s new badge in Le Parisien
The badge of deadly rivals Olympique Marseille
“Why don’t they replace the Eiffel Tower with an oil well while they’re at it?” fumed one fan on the PSG website. An online petition ‘Touche pas à mon logo’ (Hands off my logo) received just under six thousand signatures before the authentic evolution was revealed.
Calm has been restored as the new brand identity prepares to take its place on the jerseys of Ibrahimovic, Lucas and Beckham ahead of its official launch in June. But the online debate by supporters rages on, and in typically Parisian style, the precise nuances and symbolism of the brighter PSG blue are discussed ‘à l’infini’. A Champions’ League win might ease the pain for PSG fans.
PSG store on the Champs Elysée
Design studio: Dragon Rouge. Creative Team: Olivier Vinet, creative director, Nicolas Jousselin, senior art director, Anaïs Allegrini, art director. Consultants: Olivier Grenier, director, Lisa Deschamps, consultant.
PSG’s new owners have been explicit in their desire to turn the club into a world-leader. Therefore it makes perfect sense to focus in on its major asset – being in Paris. PSG may mean little to the fans in Asia who are the target of every European football club with ambition, but Paris will conjure up all kinds of glamorous and desirable connotations.
The new badge makes this strategy blindingly obvious. Perhaps ‘Saint-Germain’ may even be dropped entirely in time? Until then, the badge can fall back on its home’s most recognisable symbol – the Eiffel Tower – along with the fleur-de-lys to up the unmistakable Gallic flavour. Shame to lose the quirkiness and the story of the cradle though.
But as with other high-profile sporting takeovers, the new owners risk alienating the loyal core of support in their dash for global domination. The ongoing row over which shade of blue the badge really is underlines the sensitivities involved, although PSG fans have a lot less to complain about than those of Cardiff City whose new owners decided to change kit from blue to red this season. As with Manchester City’s fans, PSG supporters are no doubt torn between excitement at the prospect of winning trophies and seeing great players and unease about the nature of the new ownership, what such takeovers mean for the wider game and sense of loss of ‘their’ club. PSG was a football club: Paris sounds more like a franchise.
CR in print
The March issue of CR magazine celebrates 150 years of the London Underground. In it we introduce a new book by Mark Ovenden, which is the first study of all aspects of the tube’s design evolution; we ask Harry Beck authority, Ken Garland, what he makes of a new tube map concept by Mark Noad; we investigate the enduring appeal of Edward Johnston’s eponymous typeface; Michael Evamy reports on the design story of world-famous roundel; we look at the London Transport Museum’s new exhibition of 150 key posters from its archive; we explore the rich history of platform art, and also the Underground’s communications and advertising, past and present. Plus, we talk to London Transport Museum’s head of trading about TfL’s approach to brand licensing and merchandising. In Crit, Rick Poynor reviews Branding Terror, a book about terrorist logos, while Paul Belford looks at how a 1980 ad managed to do away with everything bar a product demo. Finally, Daniel Benneworth-Grey reflects on the merits on working home alone. Buy your copy here.
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