Branding: Breaking Down NHL Ice Hockey Team, the Minnesota Wild Rebrand

Rebranding a sports team can be a big deal. Primarily due to their strong support, sentimentality and emotion through the fans. For this reason, it’s imperative that when a team rebrands, such as the Minnesota Wild, the designer must take precautions. Not only to ensure the rebrand represents the ideals and values of the club and culture. But also to appease the database of loyal fans, by maintaining what the club means to them.

Given that the NHL Playoffs are upon us, albeit the Wild mightn’t progress. It seems a good a time as any to discuss the branding decisions for the Minnesota Wild.

Despite many in Minnesota disagreeing with me, so much that they want their team back to its original identity of the Minnesota North Stars. The current logo is impeccably designed and I really like it. Perhaps this is because, back in 2011, when I started watching the NHL, I chose to support the Wild due to their interesting logo. Regardless, many native Minnesotans are petitioning to get their old club identity back. Yet still, I cannot help but love the brand identity of the current Wild team.

Nevertheless, there are still some folks out there who agree with me. Believing the brand identity is strong. So knowing this, its easy to see that… The issue of a rebrand is by all means, a tightrope. A tightrope for the club, the executives and mostly the design team.

Get it right and you’re a legend. Meanwhile, if you get it wrong, you’re an outcast, a fool and likely not allowed back into the state.

This is why the Minnesota Wild rebranding will go down as a success, as far as branding goes. Because without a doubt, they hit the nail on the head, getting the project done with class, flair and respect to the past.

So without further adieu, these are three reasons the I believe the early 2000’s Minnesota Wild rebrand was such a success.

Pays tribute to the past

Paying homage to the past is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Whether its through a rebrand, like in the Wild’s case, or through any other media or medium. When homage is paid, the reception can often be a lot better and lighter than if chosen to break new creative grounds. This isn’t to say that this is a bad thing. However, call me a romantic, but I believe that a tribute paid can pave a way forward, regardless of industry.

When paying respects to the past, you acknowledge whats come before. There can often be a fine line between paying tribute and copying or plagiarising. Yet, I feel that when somebody “creates”, that cannot help but integrate aspects of influence.

Quentin Tarantino said it best.

“Good artists create, but great artists steal” – Quentin Tarantino

By this, he means that from every film he’s ever seen or watched, he gets inspiration from.

When rebranding, one should pay respect in a similar way. In the Minnesota Wild rebrand, the design pays homage to the previous team, the Minnesota North Stars. Ensuring theres a star in the new logo.

Secondly, the team kept the same colours. By not changing the club completely allowed the design identity to align well with the past. Showing the club’s not only growing, but advancing with the past was important throughout the branding process.

Given that Ice Hockey fans are some of the most passionate in the world, giving respect to the past when moving into the future is vital.

Minnesota Wild Logo
Minnesota Wild Logo

Clever Design

A great logo says a lot about a club. There are many average logo designs in the world, that when you come across a great logo design, it should be appreciated. It is for this reason that I feel the rebrand was a success. Because if nothing else, it was most of the reason why I chose to support the Wild. Despite having never set foot in Minnesota, nor supporting any other team from the state.

The logo is clever. Bringing imagery into the mix in a succinct and aloof way. Combining images that reflect the land they come from and depicting it in such a way where the viewer is visually rewarded.

Combining images to make a whole is a great pseudo-use of the gestalt principle. Allow the simplicity of the sum of both images to create one whole image. And very well done, to boot.

The graphic design of the logo contains a skyline, as well as the head of an unknown animal (most assume it to be a bear). Still, this clever usage from the designer may well have earned the team respect. If not from hockey fans, surely from design and communications fans.

The fans decision

Thanks to the internet, industries of all kinds have the ability to quickly communicate. So throughout this rebranding process, the Wild reached out to fans. Looking to get their take on the situation, allowing suggestions and selection.

Posting branding templates and mockups to fan communities to guide the company process. Subsequently, the Minnesota Wild were directed by their supporters. Opting for the most supported brand template as the successful identity.

The process may have taken longer because of this. Yet due to the involvement, the Wild can be seen by fans to be more community oriented.

In Summary

Throughout the rebrand, there were skeptics. People who, for whatever reason, didn’t want their club defaced and changed. This is something many fans can understand, as we all face nostalgia from time to time with sports clubs. Regardless of the sport, we have a tendency to get caught up and become emotional, possibly even irrational about the future of the beloved team.

This is why this aspect of the Minnesota North Stars, turned Minnesota Wild rebrand was such a success. Because although a rebrand is best compared to walking on eggshells, the Wild appeared to have succeeded. Through developing a strong identity, they’ve created a brand that can evolve.

Showing that even an industry with a built in passionate fanbase, which has the propensity to erupt with joy, anger or sadness at a buzzer and can easily be projected elsewhere, can change for the better. 

However, going beyond this, it can move with the times and become a leader in design and hopefully, its sport.



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