What’s In A Logo?
Some have said that I worry too much over little things like logos for each year’s Indianapolis 500 and the series in general. I disagree. But of course I would disagree, since I’m the one doing the worrying.
I see a logo as the brand’s image. The most effective logos have no words or letters. When you see twin golden arches, McDonald’s is the only thing that comes to mind. The Nike swoosh needs no words to describe who it belongs to. It’s the same with the silhouette of an apple with a single bite taken out of one side. All of these are iconic brands, which are immediately recognized by practically everyone.
With IndyCar, it’s not that simple. IndyCar is a brand that few outside of racing know anything about, so it’s imperative that words should accompany the logo. There is also the issue that the brand is tied to a sponsor. Adding to the confusion is the fact that there has been little continuity in title sponsorship over the last two decades.
When the Indy Racing League was first thrust upon the public in 1996, there was no title sponsor. Their logo was derived from an image that was archived through IMS from years earlier. Not a whole lot of thought or imagination went into it, but they needed something so they came up with this.
Two years later, in 1998, the series became known as the Pep Boys Indy Racing League and a new logo with even less imagination was born.
The Pep Boys deal ended after two years and the naming rights were immediately sold to the internet search engine Northern Light, and the series subsequently became the Indy Racing Northern Light Series for the 2000 season.
The five year deal with Northern Light was for a whopping fifty million dollars. It turns out that the deal wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on, and the deal was terminated after the 2001 season.
From 2002 through the 2009 season, there was no title sponsor. The IRL had finally wrestled the IndyCar name away from CART and the series became known as the IndyCar Series to differentiate it from the new ladder series known as the Infiniti Pro Series (which eventually became Indy Lights). Both of these series were sanctioned by the Indy Racing League, but even the powers-that-be at that time realized that there was a negative connotation to the IRL name, so they emphasized anything having to do with the top series was to be referred to as “IndyCar”, which was also incorporated into the new logo at the time.
It wasn’t a great logo, but it was colorful and did catch your attention. It was also pretty obvious what the logo was representing.
That all changed with the 2010 season, when IZOD came on board amid much fanfare. The company promised that it was a new day for IndyCar and that they would deliver an entirely new demographic to the IndyCar fan base. The blue in the logo changed to what we were told was a much bolder black. The race car portion of the logo was made much smaller and the emphasis was given to the IZOD brand and the name of the series was changed to the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Personally, I liked the IZOD logo. It was more horizontal and showed up well on caps, T-shirts and polos, as well as every car and drivers suit in the series.
Unfortunately, things went south with IZOD. After a couple of years, the driver parties and commercials stopped and the IZOD signage at races was almost non-existent. By the end of 2013, IZOD was gone.
In the meantime, the sanctioning body finally changed its name from the IRL to INDYCAR. The capital letters always seemed pretentious to me. It was obvious they were trying to stand out like NASCAR, but the problem was INDYCAR didn’t stand for anything. NASCAR is an acronym, INDYCAR isn’t. Therefore, I’ve stubbornly continued to refer to the sanctioning body as IndyCar. The point of that mini-rant is to point out that there is now a generic IndyCar logo in addition to the logo of whoever the title sponsor is.
To be honest, I’ve never cared for this generic logo. It’s nothing I can put my finger on, but it just looks cheap and unimaginative. Plus, it looks slanted even though it’s not…I don’t think.
Just when it looked as if the series would have to rely on the generic logo for a couple of years, Verizon stepped up to the plate and signed on to sponsor the series just as IZOD was stepping away. I complain a lot about Mark Miles, but give the man some credit for bringing Verizon on board as quickly as he did.
In a collaborative effort, IndyCar and Verizon created a very nice looking logo for the series along with a red alternate logo. Both were top-notch and classy looking, in my opinion.
But this past fall, Verizon changed their logo. Consequently, the Verizon IndyCar Series was forced to change theirs. The result is one of the ugliest and most non-descript logos I’ve ever seen. There is no color anywhere except for the subtle red check-mark at the far right. Everything else is plain and generic black & white.
In IndyCar’s defense, I understand that the series had very little say in this logo. When you sell the naming rights to a powerful sponsor like Verizon, for the amount of money they pay to the series – they reserve the right to design the logo. But could they have made it any more boring?
How will this look on a cap, a T-shirt or a polo? I can’t even think what a patch would look like. Perhaps this is the look they think will make cell phone plans sell better, but it does not convey the color and excitement of a racing series. This is certainly not what I think a decal on the rear-window of my car should look like.
It’s a shame that in this time when IndyCar is searching for an identity and a clear and concise way to market themselves, that they are saddled with such a lame logo to try and promote their brand. It makes me wonder what Will Power’s car will look like in its new livery – solid white with black lettering and a small red check-mark. That’s not what I’d call sexy.
As I said earlier, many will wonder why I took the time to go off on such a rant. There are probably many astute followers of the series that have no idea what any of the previous logos looked like, and couldn’t care less about the appearance of the current one. But I think there were many who first saw this logo and shook their head.
But I’ll reiterate – this was not an IndyCar decision. This was a Verizon decision. My question is, would anyone really care if Verizon changed their corporate logo and left the IndyCar logo alone? I wouldn’t. Change is bad!