Decathlon’s Bold Rebrand: Redefining the World of Sports Branding

Category

Branding

Read Time

6 min

Published

13 March, 2024

Established in 1976, Decathlon is a French Sports Company that is widely known as a place for other popular sports brands to buy clothing and equipment from.

This includes the likes of Asics and Adidas, as well as other ‘in-house’ brands (85 to be exact) that are actually part of Decathlon itself.

However, they weren’t satisfied with continuing to be seen as a sports retailer, and they wanted to solidify their own positioning in the market. With this in mind, they embarked on a rebrand with the idea of becoming a global sports brand in their own right.

In partnership with brand consultancy agency, Wolff Olins, the two-year long brand transformation included the development of their first actual logo, new brand positioning, and a change of visual direction.

At the heart of the initiative was also making sport fun again, steering away from the idea of ‘perfectionism’ and ‘elitism’. They wanted to make it clear that sports are accessible for everyone, regardless of ability.

But more on that later.

Let’s start this review by looking at their new logo and what it represents.

old and new logo for Decathlon on blue background
Credit to Creativ Bloq

A logo with dual meaning

If we look at the old vs new emblem, the wordmark hasn’t changed much and has remained fairly consistent throughout the brand’s history.

However what you will notice, is the addition of the triangle/ circular shape which has been dubbed L’Orbit. The two shapes are designed to represent waves and a mountain, the idea being that Decathlon wants to represent the numerous sports they serve, again helping them to appeal to a wider audience, thereby achieving their goal of making sports accessible to everyone.

Furthermore, over the years the brand has emphasised its commitment to protecting the planet, which is also visually signified in the circular shape.

This visual extension of the brand mission represents several things such as its continuous commitment to improving the recyclability of its products, its buyback system, and developing a product hire service.

The cyclical shape of the circle is significant with these factors in mind, so it serves a dual purpose of a) representing the wave and sports, and b) the brand’s ongoing commitment to the planet.

The logo will play a significant role, making appearances not only across brand touchpoints but also on the physical products, from sports bras to gloves.

There has been some criticism that it looks a little bit like a tech brand such as Intel, but I think with the right roll-out programme the brand will be able to convey the right message.
young girl doing a boxing kick
Credit to It’s Nice That

Putting the joy back into sport

As we hinted at the beginning of this review, Decathlon were eager to inject some fun back into the world of sports.

Naturally a competitive industry, there’s a huge amount of pressure on people to win and be at the top of their game.

However with this mindset, you lose some of the love and fun that sport is meant to represent. This rebrand aims to change that by making Decathlon a “future-fit” sports brand designed to reflect all sports, all people, all ages, and all ability levels.

Wolff Olins differentiated Decathlon from its industry competitors by prioritising aspects beyond performance or winning when crafting the brand identity.

Emma Barratt, Global Executive Creative Director at Wolff Olins said:

The brand appeals to all levels, entry through to experts, with a clear focus on the emotions of the participant. The sheer joy of movement, the fun behind play, the dedication to practice and improvement, the reward of progress.

A change of visual direction

Also supporting the idea of making sport fun again is the new brand voice and visual direction.

Centred around the idea of ‘play’ this again carries connotations of sport being enjoyable, and encourages people to simply get up and move. It’s not about being an athlete or winning, but about enjoying the feeling of getting out and moving, whether that’s through swimming, running, or anything else in between.

Headed up by Wolff Olins sister creative agency, AMV BBDO , the video below encapsulates this idea of ‘play’ and shows people engaging in all types of different sports.

It also shows people falling down, but crucially, getting back up again, so there’s this great sense of empowerment, tying into the idea that it’s not all about winning.

Emma Barratt adds:

Decathlon has always been for everybody; a sportsmaker, misunderstood as a retailer. A democratising influence in sport, fast becoming a leader in circularity. But above all, its aim is to simply bring fun, joy and wonder to people of all levels and abilities. We have honoured this with the new brand and identity, which is an open invitation for all to move in their own way.

It’s refreshing to see such a big sports branding moving away from it all being about elite athletes, which in reality, represents a small proportion of people who engage in sport.

Whether it’s for your weight or mental health, there’s lots of reasons why people participate in sport and it feels like these reasons are now being represented.
the words all people on blue background
Credit to It’s Nice That

Developing a custom typeface

Swiss foundry Grilli Type has crafted a unique typeface named Decathlon Sans as part of the rebrand.

Prior to the creation of this bespoke typeface, Wolff Olins emphasised that the new brand extended beyond the logo, emphasising that a distinctive typeface serves as the brand’s handwriting.

The goal for the typeface was to infuse a playful element while accentuating the sport’s performance side.

This can be seen through the curved lettering, giving a subtle nod to L’Orbit (in the O), and the slants, echoing the performance (in the M and Y), intentionally selected to embody both facets of the brand.

Decathlon’s Bold Rebrand: Redefining the World of Sports Branding

It’s a really positive move from Decathlon to inject some fun and playfulness back into the often pressurised world of sport.

By representing different people from different walks of life, it reduces the pressure individuals put on themselves that sport is all about being the best.

The advertising campaign also features people laughing and smiling as they engage in exercise, and considering a key reason behind why people exercise is to improve their mental health and mood, this is an important message.

Leaning into the enjoyment aspect is key, and if the Decathlon rebrand encourages people to get moving and to get outdoors more, then it’s a job well done.

Hey I'm Tony, Founder and Director of Canny Creative. I eat, sleep and bleed Canny to be honest. I'm an absolute workaholic (and yes, I know that's not a good thing!).

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