In case you haven’t heard, local creative agency Coordinate has just revealed the new logo for Australia’s ice hockey league, the AIHL. For most of us, this isn’t exactly big news, but for ice hockey nuts across the nation, it is pretty exciting stuff. They all watched in awe last year as the Canberra Knights, a team that had never amounted to much in its 33 years, that they thought was dead and buried at the beginning of last year, rose phoenix-like from the ashes, rebranded and re-energised as CBR Brave, to make it all the way to the finale weekend for the first time in its history.
If anybody is looking for a local story to turn into a movie, well this is a script that writes itself. Here is a story about a couple of local ad guys with no sports management experience who took on a seemingly impossible task, who managed to pull business and government together and garner support for a fringe team in a fringe sport, and to make it a runaway success. Of course, their efforts last year have impressed the hell out of the national fan body, and the AIHL, who have rewarded the Canberra agency with their account.
Now I feel I need to give full disclosure here. I spent the last two years as managing editor at Coordinate, but in case you are wondering, this is not a puff piece. I thought about calling Jamie Wilson and Warren Apps, Coordinate’s directors, and asking for an interview, but I didn’t think that was necessary as I saw the whole thing first hand; and I’m not here to give anybody a leg-up, I’m just so damned impressed.
I have to admit that when Jamie Wilson walked into the offices of Coordinate and announced his intention to invest in an ice hockey team, I thought he’d lost his marbles. “Ice hockey? Really? Who gives a shit about ice hockey?” You see ice hockey isn’t my thing. Probably never will be. But this is not an article about ice hockey. It is an article about a bunch of creative, committed and passionate people who got together to save a little local team that was going nowhere.
It is about a bunch of agency types spending their Saturday nights in a rickety broken down half-arsed ice rink in Phillip; client managers collecting tickets, graphic designers ushering spectators, and creative directors selling merchandise. It is about a video production team led by a guy with a smile and a hope and with close to zero budget, turning out gold that matches anything from the big guns at the AFL and the NRL and everybody in between.
It is about standing in Walt & Burley on a Friday night a couple of months into the season, drink in hand, and seeing all the faces turn to the big screen when a news item about the CBR Brave comes on. And finally, it is about how this city can match it with anybody when it allows people with drive and ambition and vision to come to the fore.
Anybody who has been interested in local government’s campaign to brand our city would probably be familiar with Coordinate. After all, their name has been in the news alongside the CBR brand they created since the rollout. Not all opinion has been positive. Some has been downright nasty, and some has just questioned the need for a Canberra ‘brand’
It is fair enough that you may ask what is a brand. Is it a fancy logo? Is it some nice copywriting? I’m not really sure about any of that, so I don’t think I’m the right guy to answer the question, but I am sure that whatever it is, it should be honest and authentic, and not resort to jingoism. I may be wrong, but I think it should be about doing as much as saying, and a campaign like this, by its very nature is mostly about saying. Through design, through words, through images.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the work they have done is first rate, but in truth, I don’t really care for brands. Or logos. But I care about Canberra. That is why I’m throwing my energy into this website, and that is why I applaud Canberra businesses that dream big, push the envelope and deliver outstanding work.
That is why I would rather eat my pasta at a place that is owned by Canberra locals I’ve known for years than a celebrity chef from the other side of the globe whose only interest in my community is how much they can charge per cover. That is why I would rather buy my locally and ethically produced eggs from the neighbourhood grocer than the ‘Big Two’. That is why I would rather get my coffee from a local roaster who works directly with farmers in developing nations, than some place selling a big time Italian brand.
If we accept the idea, as we have, that conception rather than birth is the benchmark for age, then Canberra is two years into its second century. The last two years, either by coincidence or design, have felt for many of us like a coming of age. So many new businesses have sprouted; so many young and motivated individuals have come forward.
All of a sudden, Canberra is getting good press, but if I think about Canberra’s brand, it is the sum of all of this doing, rather than just saying. CBR told us we are Confident, Bold and Ready. What could possibly have encapsulated those sentiments more than the Brave story? In a funny kind of way, the guys that came up with CBR have proven as effective in advancing the brand by their doing as they have by their saying.