Branding, hockey and the Winter Olympics; what they all have in common

Although not as well-known as its football equivalent, FIFA, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) is the world governing body for ice hockey. Back in 2004, the IIHF went through a major facelift of its corporate identity and logo and had selected blue-infinity to undergo the surgery. The result was a much more modern, authoritative, dynamic, recognisable and adaptable identity that won the globally renowned Rebrand Award in 2007.

Unless you were in deep winter hibernation in February, it’s difficult to have missed out on the 2010 Winter Olympics that were just concluded in Vancouver, Canada. Despite the 15 disciplines and their 76 events, and me being a Swede, ice hockey is arguably the main feature of each Winter Olympics with the top 12 teams in the world fighting it out for gold medal glory. Even more so if you ask a Canadian; whether you asked one before or after they won gold in a historical match against the USA.

Ice hockey is considered one the fastest and most physical sports in the world. It can be rough at times – more so in the NHL than in Europe - but always incredibly exhilarating, exciting, beautiful and skilful to watch. Almost like a figure skater in how they skate on the ice, but with a stick, puck, some padding and considerably cooler outfits. If you’re not big into sports, I highly recommend watching a live game at least once, even if just for the experience and atmosphere. I had the opportunity to go to Vancouver and experience ice hockey at its peak and was quite honestly overwhelmed at the level of hockey and passion there is for the sport in the country where hockey was practically invented.

Although not as well-known as its football equivalent, FIFA, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) is the world governing body for ice hockey. Back in 2004, the IIHF went through a major facelift of its corporate identity and logo and had selected blue-infinity to undergo the surgery. The result was a much more modern, authoritative, dynamic, recognisable and adaptable identity that won the globally renowned Rebrand Award in 2007.

We have since done some great marketing and design work for the IIHF such as creating their 100th anniversary logo and several World Championships logos, various stationery items, merchandising etc. For the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics – where the lIIHF are responsible for organising the ice hockey event - we were given the task of designing elements for their official hospitality venue, named the ‘IIHF Lounge’. The Lounge allowed VIP’s to grab a bite to eat and drink whilst watching the hockey games on one of several HD TV’s, as well mingling with hockey legends (including Wayne Gretzky and the 22 members of the Triple Gold Club), IIHF representatives, business partners, etc.

The IIHF Lounge needed to look elegant and professional yet be in line with the core values of the IIHF brand as well as comply with the Vancouver Olympics brand identity. Sounds easy, but...  we were faced with many challenges such as how to create branding for a tent that hadn’t been built yet, a floor plan that kept changing, coordinating between the client and a third-party company, and most importantly to create an entirely new set of secondary graphics for what was now a 6-year young brand heading into puberty (in brand years). And all this in just three months, including production. To our advantage, we understood the very essence of the brand having created it and could therefore more easily see in which direction it needed to be pushed.

We worked closely together with the IIHF and the event management company in Vancouver, Vision, almost on a daily (and some cases, nightly) basis, synchronizing communications between people based in Switzerland, Mexico, Canada and Holland. Globalisation, technology and teamwork at its best. We had created a new set of secondary graphics that could be applied in all kinds of environments and that fit the IIHF current brand and identity like a glove. We took these new sets of graphics and applied them to different items such as wall graphics, banners, posters, invitations, backlit materials and even a massive 1.8m x 1.2m ice hockey goalie mask. The end result was great, the deadline was met and the new members to the IIHF brand family were introduced in the most appropriate of places, the Winter Olympics.

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About the author

Claes Gartner
Claes Gartner

Claes holds a Bachelor Degree in Business from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and is a certified usability analyst by Human Factors International. With over five years of experience in marketing and brand strategy, usability analysis and project management, Claes spent two years working for United Parcel Service in the United Arab Emirates and has been with blue-infinity since 2007 as an account and project manager in the branding and interactive marketing department.