A sporting brand too far

It seems Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council, has grand visions that seem to follow a Design Week article on a Creative Director for Birmingham; Would appointing a creative director solve Birmingham's image problems?. As Stef Lewandowski comments in the article "'If a city has an elected mayor, then aren't they the creative director?" It seem's Whitby has taken this on board with his comments that Aston Villa should change their name to include the name of the city.

Whitby said: 'Aston Villa is one of Birmingham’s great institutions and is an international brand that the city is proud of. I think that a closer association between Aston Villa and the city of Birmingham could help boost Birmingham’s profile across the world. It is great to see the football club using the slogan ‘Aston Villa - pride of Birmingham’ this season.

Despite Aston Villa being over 134 years old and founder of the Football League it seems Whitby thinks Villa doesn't reflect on the city in which they play.

He’s contrasted the Villa “identity crisis” with Manchester United, where supporters are left in no doubt about the Manchester connection.

Perhaps Whitby ought to consider Everton. Do they need to change their name to Everton Liverpool? While Whitby has ambitious aims to make Birmingham a truly global city with a local heart it seems this rebranding is a step too far and Villa's management together with fans have reacted against the proposal.
With the council launching it's Big City Plan this proposal smacks of ignoring the city of communities that Birmingham is and the vibrant mix of people and cultures. Does everything need to be branded as Birmingham? A name as large and steeped in success and history surely doesn't need to be renamed.

With so much creativity and innovation bubbling in Birmingham theres a real danger the council will strangle the city's organic development with gaffes such as this exercise in corporate branding. The danger is that as soon as something is approved / branded with the city council it loses it's originality and the quirkes that gave rise to it's success and innovation.

Let's hope Whitby and the Big City Plan team learn from this marketing disaster and instead reflect on what Peter Saville, graphic design legend and a creative director for the City of Manchester says about logos and ideas. If not the danger is the Big City Plan becomes a dry planning document rather than a catalyst to help bring the city together and make it benefit all it's inhabitants.

Saville says, 'Cities don't have logos - does London have a logo? Does New York? Where would you put a logo?' Instead, he came up with the concept of 'transforming Manchester from the first industrial city into the original modern city', defining the city by its story and history.


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