Kaval's Kickoff: Reunification and rebirth of the Earthquakes

Happy New Years Quakes Fans! 

As I look forward at the coming year of 2014, I could not be more excited and optimistic about the direction of the San Jose Earthquakes. 2014 is the 40th anniversary of the club and we have several huge time events that will celebrate and honor our heritage while charting our course for the next 40 years. These include the completion of our new stadium near the end of the year, the inaugural event, Quakes vs. Sounders FC, at Levi’s Stadium on August 2, the California Clasico at Stanford Stadium and large scale World Cup viewing parties. To start off the festivities for the 40th birthday bash, we are re-launching the San Jose Earthquakes brand and unveiling a new logo that represents what this club is all about.

That is correct. We will have a new logo and brand identity for the 2014 season and beyond. It is no small undertaking to embark on a rebranding of any product. Rebranding a professional sports team brings with it even more challenges. You must balance the emotional connection that a team’s mark has on fans as well as the community at large with the desire to create a new mark that better reflects the direction and identity of the club and the sport at the current time and into the future. This has been done well and very poorly.

When we studied other situations of pro sports teams re-branding, we realized that unless you can answer one key question then the rebrand is likely a mistake.  The key question is “why?” Why change anything? We felt that we needed a good answer to that question before we could entertain moving forward with any type of rebrand.

So with that backdrop, we started a 14-month exploration of the brand identity of the San Jose Earthquakes. We hoped that by better understanding the way that various stakeholders viewed and experienced the club that we as a front office and the current curator of the brand could set the appropriate direction on a go forward basis.

What followed were scores of interviews, focus groups and primary research on the San Jose Earthquakes dating back to the club’s origins in 1973-74. We spent time curating the items from History San Jose to learn more about the NASL era. Newspaper articles, programs, and even personal interviews with individuals like Milan Mandaric – the founder and initial owner of the Quakes – formulated our views on the early Quakes.  Those same sources as well as other former players and long time fans provided great insight into the 1980s WSA Quakes as well as the rise and fall of the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks in the so called “middle ages” of US pro soccer.

The rich treasure trove of info extended into the MLS era starting with the impact of the 1994 World Cup on Bay Area soccer. We continued the primary research through conversations with members of the team from 2001-2005 when the team won two MLS Cups and a Supporters’ Shield. We paid special attention to the feedback from fans about the Houston relocation and the strong community effort led by Soccer Silicon Valley to lobby for a new team here in San Jose with its history intact.

Fan and community input was especially important to this process from the beginning. The collective resolve and devotion of the fan base through numerous fits and starts as a club, including the terrible exile to Houston, was striking. The fact that fans were so devoted to the club in spite of these tragedies helped define what it means to be a member of Quakes nation.

Through this process, we made a very simple observation. The current mark and team brand identity did not properly reflect the values and heritage that the San Jose Earthquakes have here in our community dating back 40 years. This was a theme that many stakeholders from former players to supporters group members touched upon. It was at that point that we had an answer to our question of “why change anything?”

As the stewards of the Quakes brand and identity at this critical chapter in our club’s history, we felt an obligation to re-unify the brand and team identity to better reflect our values of unity, devotion and heritage that so clearly presented themselves through the exhaustive and comprehensive process of reflection and enlightenment.

The end result of this journey is not just a new crest, but rather a reunification and rebirth of the Quakes nation. It is a mark that we can be proud of and can propel the club to greatness both on and off the field. It is our future and it is now.

I look forward to seeing you on January 30 at San Pedro Square Market, as we unveil the next step in our journey.



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