Rebranding Juventus: How a New Logo and Ronaldo Have Changed Everything

Tom Williams@tomwfootballSpecial to Bleacher ReportDecember 20, 2019

TURIN, ITALY - OCTOBER 19: Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus looks on  prior to the Serie A match between Juventus and Bologna FC at  on October 19, 2019 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

The meeting in which the new image that Juventus would present to the world was first mapped out took place in a small ground-floor office at the club's former headquarters on Corso Galileo Ferraris in central Turin in the spring of 2016.

In attendance were Giorgio Ricci, Juve's head of global partnerships and corporate revenues, brand development manager Luca Adornato, head of brand, licensing and retail Silvio Vigato, brand manager Daniele Lunazzi, head of marketing and digital Federico Palomba and head of communications Claudio Albanese, along with representatives from New York-based brand consultancy Interbrand.

As rain drummed against the windows outside, the Interbrand team delivered a 20-minute presentation, during which they shared their vision of how to rebrand the club. The wide-ranging pitch featured a slick reworking of the Juventus logo as a simple, stylised letter "J."

Juve's officials were struck by the boldness of the proposed revamp. Although they were conscious that moving away from the existing crest would risk angering longstanding supporters, the radical redesign chimed with their desire to extend the club's reach into new markets.

"The idea of the rebrand was to reposition the club in the wider entertainment industry as a brand that was able to deliver lifestyle experiences," Ricci, who is now Juve's chief revenue officer, told Bleacher Report. "It was about being able to be identified as something wider than a pure football brand."

The reworked logo would ultimately form the centrepiece of the striking new visual identity that Juventus unveiled in Milan in January 2017. The glitzy launch event, attended by 500 guests, took place during Milan Fashion Week, which was no coincidence. The venue was deliberately, even a little provocatively, chosen to show that the new Juventus would cross boundaries in unexpected ways and that, while rooted in Turin, it was a club eager to do business with the whole world.

This picture taken on May 26, 2019 shows the logo of Juventus' team on the 2019/2020 season jersey during the Italian Serie A football match Sampdoria vs Juventus Turin on May 26, 2019 at the 'Luigi Ferraris' in Genoa. (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)

The goal of the facelift was to make Juventus appeal to what the club's marketing men termed "entertainment enthusiasts": global consumers of different ages and backgrounds who could be persuaded to buy into the Juve brand because it held the promise of new and exciting experiences, in the same way that people associate themselves with Red Bull, Ferrari and Harley-Davidson even if they have never drunk an energy drink, driven a sports car or ridden a motorbike.

"We needed to create an attitude brand: a brand that would capture the imaginations of people who were not necessarily into football," said Manfredi Ricca, Interbrand's global chief strategy officer, who played a leading role in the rebrand.

"We needed to look at the great, fast-growing global brands that are able to synthesise and personify an attitude. We needed to look at the Nikes and the Adidases of this world, at the Chanels and the Louis Vuittons and the Guccis. Those are the brands that stand for a clear feeling and attitude and emotion.

"If you look at the identity of Juventus, the stark simplicity of it lines up much better with a Gucci monogram or a Nike swoosh than it does with very elaborate, legacy-driven [football] crests."

The new-look Juve did not take long to move into new territories. In the three years since the rebrand went live, the club has starred in a Netflix documentary, launched a cartoon series on YouTube Kids, co-hosted a New York club night with online music platform Boiler Room, collaborated on a clothing line with London-based skate brand Palace and even supported an exhibition of innovative pipe joints at Milan Design Week. The goal of all these new activities (known in the industry as "brand stretching") has been to transform Juventus into a global brand that transcends football.

"Their ambition is to go from a very successful Italian football team to one of the biggest sporting brands in the world," Misha Sher, vice-president of media agency MediaCom Sport and Entertainment, told Bleacher Report. "It's about having relevance and profile in what is a very cluttered entertainment world."

Juve's innovative marketing manoeuvres have accompanied the club's attempts to move to the next level on the pitch, where eight years of unbroken dominance in Serie A have been offset by recurrent failures to go all the way in the UEFA Champions League. The twin objectives of on-pitch success and off-pitch growth coalesced perfectly in the summer of 2018 when Juventus succeeded in signing Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid for an Italian-record fee of €100 million.

In addition to his on-pitch impact, Ronaldo's presence has been strongly felt at commercial level, with Juve's merchandising sales almost doubling in his first full season and the club's digital following swelling by over 50 percent to around 90 million followers.

Allied to the rebrand, the arrival of one of the most marketable figures in world sport has further served to enhance Juve's appeal to the young populations found in key growth markets such as China and the United States. Juve cannot compete with the television revenues enjoyed by their competitors in England and Spain, but as a slew of new deals with brands such as Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Japanese video game manufacturer Konami demonstrate, a player like Ronaldo can unlock commercial opportunities all on his own.

"There's more eyeballs on the club with Ronaldo," said Sher. "And if there's more eyeballs on the club, their ability to generate commercial revenue goes up significantly."

One challenge facing Juventus is how to durably secure the affections of the predominantly young supporters who have only started following the team's fortunes since Ronaldo joined. The Portugal superstar turns 35 in February and will not remain in Turin forever, but Juve's marketing team is confident that many of the relationships being built with the club's new fans will survive his eventual departure.

"The most important KPI [key performance indicator] that we're monitoring now is not the number of followers or fans within our media platform, but the level of engagement. And the level of engagement is higher than what we had 18 months ago," explained Ricci.

"It means that we're not only bringing people onto our platform, but we're engaging them. We're engaging them through content that is not only based around Cristiano, but based around our story, the club and the engagement activity that we're doing. This is basically our strategy. With this we're building our future."

Juventus' Argentine forward Paulo Dybala (2ndL) celebrates with Juventus' Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (L) after opening the scoring during the Italian Serie A football match Sampdoria vs Juventus on December 18, 2019 at the Luigi-Ferraris stadium

Securing Ronaldo's commercial legacy forms part of a five-year business development plan that covers the period between 2019 and 2024. The plan details some of the key trends that Juve's marketing executives believe will shape the immediate future of the football industry, which include: greater crossover between sport and lifestyle branding; an increase in the prominence of individual players' media profiles; the continued growth of women's football (Juve launched a women's team in 2017); and the ongoing development of esports (an industry that Juve entered recently in partnership with Konami).

The most significant trend pinpointed in the plan centres around the evolution in the way that young people consume football. Ricci offers a stark assessment that "young generations are no longer interested in live matches," which is moving Juve to plough resources into developing other kinds of content, such as highlights packages and behind-the-scenes footage.

To that end, the most significant portion of the investment allotted to the business development programme has gone into the creation of a powerful CRM (customer relationship management) platform, which will enable the club to engage with supporters even more directly than it does currently.

"We're investing a lot in our digital platform," Ricci said. "We're building our own communication platform, which will be able to deliver content directly to our fans without being mediated by the broadcasters. This is the key trend that will completely change the football industry over the next five years."

Juve's domestic dominance on the pitch may be under threat from Inter Milan and Lazio this season, but in off-pitch matters, they continue to soar. Turnover jumped from €172 million in the 2010-11 season to €621 million in the 2018-19 campaign, with the club's value rocketing from €162 million to €1.47 billion over the same period. Following lucrative renegotiations over the last 12 months, the club's partnerships with kit manufacturer Adidas and principal sponsor Jeep are now collectively worth over €100 million a year. And the club is hungry for more.

"We must view 2019, 2020, this season, this assembly, as a new year zero for Juventus," president Andrea Agnelli told shareholders in October. "It is time to think big."

On a global scale, Juve still lag behind European football's true heavyweights and slipped to 11th place in the most recent edition of accounting firm Deloitte's Football Money League, which ranks clubs according to annual revenue. But while the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United remain the front-runners, Juve are convinced that by harnessing the opportunities created by their rebrand, by piggybacking on the massive global appeal of Ronaldo and by consistently thinking outside the box, they can begin to close the gap.

"In order to reach the current level of clubs like Manchester United, Real Madrid or Barcelona, we cannot follow their course," Ricci said.

"They're part of a completely different domestic system and they're leveraging the strength of their system a lot. They've done it over the last 10 years, most importantly. But we feel like we're younger. So what we're doing is trying to reach the same level of those clubs, but by following our own way."