As ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported, Nike believes Gronk’s personal logo, a silhouette of the football player doing his iconic “Gronk spike,” is too similar to its classic Air Jordan Jumpman logo of basketball great Michael Jordan dunking. Nike filed a formal opposition to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trial and Appeal Board last month.
Let’s learn from this.
What is brand positioning?
Simply put, brand positioning can be thought of as the things you want your consumer’s mind to connect your brand to. It is a type of rubric to reference before every external action of a company in order to keep things consistent and on target.
Where things get interesting, is when brands use proximity in order to siphon another brand’s positioning. By sheer relativity, either in visuals or voice, staying close to similar brands can have a strong effect in creating perceived value off the back of another brand.
The MLB and NBA logos both use a similar red & blue container holding a silhouette, which then, for the NBA who created this logo a year after the MLB created theirs, feeds off of the ‘America’s Sport’ positioning of the MLB. It aligns itself to the major media, high competitive nature of a national sport that the MLB built and legitimizes them through brand proximity.
In the Gronkowski case above, taking the brand proximity approach to align your personal athlete brand to the largest, most ubiquitous one in existence seems like a good idea. In the sense that when they see your brand, the consumer will automatically associate you with a number of the successes of Jordan brand. It would also shorten the journey to brand loyalty.
The Gronk logo, however, is too close.
Looking at it from a designer’s perspective, the reason that the MLB and NBA logos can be that similar, is because although they use the same colors and container split with the blue and red, the silhouettes and orientation of the containers are completely different. It’s the curse of simplicity. What looks easy and simple, introduces more things to consider due to the lack of elements. There isn’t much to work with.
You wouldn't use a silhouetted apple, would you?