The challenge: Reimagine Minnesota soccer from every angle
When MN United asked Zeus Jones to create an identity for the new soccer club in 2013, the stakes were considerable. But we raised them even higher. Through a design that inspired the team, countless fans and even retail partners, MN United has already been recognized as one of the most iconic U.S. sports teams — and will be joining Major League Soccer in 2017.
Prior to joining MN United, I was a lawyer. I knew nothing of the creative community in this town and didn’t understand agencies. But I was told, “You have to talk to these guys.” And hiring Zeus Jones was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my professional life.
From the onset, it was more than a design thing to us. We knew that we were going to deliver the design but we also knew that the design would be doing the heavy lifting as far as marketing the team — at least for the near term. So we needed to create something reverential, whether you were the biggest soccer fan in the world or completely clueless that we play soccer in Minnesota.
Simply put, we decided that we would have to outdesign every other sports team in the world. And that’s how we’d win.
We had high hopes from the beginning, but every day we’re surprised by how far fans have taken it.
Our goal was to create something that was truly of Minnesota, not just for Minnesota. In the end, we combined several of our favorite ideas into one crest. The loon is the animal most closely associated with our state. The blue stripe represents the mighty Mississippi River while the gray color is a nod to the rough material of the Iron Range.
Our mark really helps us tell our story and bring people into our culture — there is meaning behind every element. It’s something that our players, our employees and our fan base are all proud to wear and display.
The design received nearly universal acclaim and put us on the map very quickly.
It’s been really cool to see the team take the design and run with it to make a million different T-shirts, jackets, hats and more. Third-party manufacturers are taking elements from it and applying them to their products. It just speaks to the power of the identity and how it can be broken apart and used in a bunch of ways. It’s been realized across a bunch of things — and always looks amazing.
Even outside our own market, people wanted that merchandise. You could and still see it everywhere. We hit above our weight.
I tell our staff this all the time: I don’t consider us being in the sports business. I consider us operating in the culture business. We give people things to talk about. And our design stands for ideas. It’s something that people are proud to wear and display — both our players, employees and fan base.
I think the most telling thing about the work is how we’ve stayed in touch. For example, when we started discussing the team’s potential (now definite) move to MLS, our first call was to Zeus Jones to discuss how we wanted to handle this transition and execute against it. I want their input on everything — from customer experience to signage and beyond.
I can’t wait to see how Zeus delivers on this next moment in our history.