London Roller Derby: Our Rebranding Journey

The story so far

It’s finally happening, London Rollergirls are dropping the ‘girls’ and rebranding to London Roller Derby! While this change might seem overdue, in this blog we talk through some of the reasoning behind this change and the process we went through to rebrand the oldest roller derby league in Europe. We’ve tried to be totally transparent about our experiences in the hope that other leagues considering similar changes might find something useful in what we went through. 

The discussion around rebranding was on the table for a number of years but in such a large and busy league the process of recreating ourselves was daunting and often got pushed back in the face of other pressing concerns like finding budget to send our travel team to America, paying for London venue hire and all the rest. 

So, why change and why now? The sport we play is ever evolving, not just the tactics on tracks (hello knee starts!) but also increasing awareness of gender identities, diversity and recognising that we need to be more inclusive to our trans and non binary teammates. 

A brand is also bigger than just the name, and a lot of people also felt uncomfortable with the logo and its inherent connection to national identity and Britain’s colonial past. Over the years, and through open discussion, we learned that our logo has been a sore point for many of our members, and our wider community, with the use of the Union Jack. 

While in 2006 when the league was founded the punk aesthetic and ‘rollergirl’ terminology felt like a good fit for a fringe sport, as our league has grown in diversity and athleticism it no longer sat comfortably. Fundamentally the brand did not represent us and who we want to be.  Ultimately in 2017 we finally acknowledged that we could no longer push the issue of the rebrand into the long grass and needed to undertake a radical re-envisaging of our core values. 

Considerations

In commencing the rebrand project we undertook a number of activities, these included:

  • Redefining our core values through a consultative workshop process and updating our mission statement
  • Surveying the league about the current branding and holding focus groups 
  • Establishing a rebrand task force and project manager to lead on developing a brand that could work across online, uniform and merchandise
  • Aligning our process for the rebrand with other activities such as our strategic business planning and league restructure 
  • External surveys 

Initially we surveyed our league around our league name to get a better understanding of how people engaged with the current brand.

37 people took the survey, and out of those 19 (51.3%) said they did not think our name represented our core values, 14 (37.8%) thought maybe it does, and only 4 people (10.8%) thought that yes, our name does represent our core values. 

The main reason given for negative feelings towards the name was the word ‘girls’ – many commented this was ‘infantilising’, ‘patronising’ or ‘not inclusive’. A couple commented that it was ‘dated’, or that it doesn’t feel empowering, athletic or inspirational.

Aside from the considerations above we also believed that having a professional, modern and unique logo that reinforces our brand and that matches our core values would help us achieve our league objectives for financial security and sustainability. We also felt that a logo that represents roller derby in its current form would help us promote the sport and engage current and new audiences, which will in turn boost our ability to host big events and be a leader in UK roller derby.

Longer term we hope that the rebrand project will enable us to create a successful junior league, in addition to genuinely realising our ambitions to be a more diverse and inclusive league, while recognising there’s lots of work to be done in this area.

In the process we also acknowledged the risks of rebranding. While we no longer felt our brand was in keeping with the environment around us, we also understood the legacy and heritage of our existing identity and recognised the importance of retaining some of the core elements that our members and audiences connect with.

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The Rebrand Team

Baby Cheesus decided to take the reigns and establish a rebrand project team that would lead on the development of concepts for the new look London Rollergirls. Cheesus started researching the rebrand in February 2018 and ran surveys and focus groups to lay the groundwork for the timeline and plan of the rebrand. The rebrand plan was presented to the league at the May 2018 AGM for initial feedback before a project team was established. 

We found that we had a depth of experience in our league with many experienced graphic designers, project managers and brand experts. Although this meant we could have more control and get the work for free, it meant we had to be realistic about what we can achieve when everyone has full time jobs outside of roller derby and train three nights a week.

Our first rebrand meeting was held on October 1st 2018, at which point we reviewed the logo ideas that had been proposed by designers in small focus groups. The focus groups were asked to review the logos and assess whether they aligned with our core values and the brief that we had set for the logo. The results of this meeting were summarised and published to the league and the designers went back to the drawing board to further explore the ideas that were given the green light.

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The designers met and reviewed the main concepts and presented final logo designs for the league to vote on in January 2019. For full transparency, you might be wondering why we are only revealing our new identity in August. The short version is that we voted and decided that as a league that we weren’t happy with the final designs, and needed to go back to the brief and review where we had gone wrong and how we could improve the brief so it really reflected the needs and wants that were expressed when discussing the final logo options. From our perspective we see that our brand is fundamental for attracting sponsors, publicity and fan engagement in addition to being the way we present ourselves to the outside world, so it was critical that the final output ticked a number of boxes, in addition to being able to work across digital, print and uniforms. While we felt pressure to maintain momentum and follow through on our ambition to launch the new brand earlier in the season, we took the tough decision to start over rather than rushing out an output we weren’t totally happy with.

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Sadly for us, Cheesus decided to take a break from roller derby in January 2019 (we miss you – come back!) and so we recruited Sable and Bash’er Fierce to take over the reins of keeping us designers on schedule. We had a couple of meetings via Google hangouts and set a new brief and worked up new ideas that we reviewed, presented to the league and then worked on further.

The final design

Our final design was created by the talented Katie Hellvetica Black and is something we are all very proud to wear on our chests. Having explored and discarded several ideas for logos, the final logo is something we see as an evolution and deconstruction of the original design, retaining elements of the iconic logo but disassociating it from any negative connotations and refreshing it for the modern era of roller derby. The uniforms were designed by Juke Boxx and showcase the multifaceted aspects of our new logo, bringing a contemporary and more athletic aesthetic for our refreshed league.

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The new look LRD was unveiled at our games on 10th August against Rainy City, Killahurtz and Paris. We’ll be launching a host of new merch over the coming months and updating our new brand across our online platforms, so please keep checking back on our website to see where we’re at!

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London Roller Derby Triple Header

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Holy moly have we got a treat in store for you! On Saturday 10th August we’re hosting not one, not two but THREE games!! Join us in Crystal Palace for three super-exciting games guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. First our Brawling babes will be taking on our fave Northern team RAINY BLOOMIN’ CITY, definitely one not to be missed! Next up our BRAND SPANKING NEW D TEAM will be taking on Essex’s KILLAHURTZ in their debut game. Finally Brawling will be back on the track in their first match against PARIS ROLLERGIRLS!

As if that wasn’t enough, we’ll also have awesome roller derby vendors and snacks, and some very exciting news…but you’ll have to be there to find out! You do not want to miss out on this!! Check out the Facebook event and get your ticket – they’re on sale now and likely to go fast so get in quick!

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Meet the Skaters: Bryony

Our next featured skater is Bryony, another member of our Fundamentals programme.

How did you first hear about roller derby? (and London Rollergirls!)
I came to watch a LRG game years ago when I was a freshy for another team!

What made you want to try it?
Whip It – Naturally!

Did you have any skating experience before you started Fundamentals? Have you played any other sports before?
None whatsoever…I was (still am) a Bambi on ice!

What is your favourite thing you have learned in training so far? What has been the most challenging thing?
My favourite thing is going fast and running on toe stops – who’d have thought that was even possible? Holding my balance after being hit is pretty challenging, it must go back to channelling Bambi!

What’s the best thing about learning to play roller derby?
The amazing community around me – whilst travelling around the world I used Roller Derby as a supportive network of immediate friends on arrival in far flung lands. LRG hasn’t disappointed!

Have you thought about a derby name yet? If so what is it?
Hmm, it would be too easy to go with the obvious ‘ginger’ puns. I’m waiting for a flash of inspiration.

Do you have any other hobbies? (besides derby!) What do you like to get up to when you’re not skating?
Having just moved to London I’m finding my feet doing all of the exciting things, exploring and buying too many house plants. Also currently learning to LindyHop which is hilarious.

What advice would you give someone thinking about trying roller derby?
DO IT. Honestly, it will be the best decision you’ll make. Fun, friends and fierce thighs.

To find out more out the London Rollergirls Fundamentals programme, click here.

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Rollergirls – Film by Julian Love

Last year, after Julian Love came and took a series of wonderful portraits of some of our skaters, we worked with the super talented photographer to create this incredible short film. Thank you Julian and team <3

Featuring the London Rollergirls
Directed by Julian Love @julianlovephoto
Director of Photography Chris Dodds @chisdoddsdop
Edited by OKAY STUDIO @okaystudio

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Meet the Skaters: Cleo

Kicking off our new “Meet the Skaters” series is Cleo.  Cleo is part of our fabulous Fundamentals programme.

How did you first hear about roller derby? (and London Rollergirls!)
I think this may be the most common answer, I found derby through the film ‘Whip It’ starring Ellen Page.  I got super obsessed with it and watched it over and over.  That year, I asked for skates for my birthday but was always far too nervous to put them on, so they were untouched in the box for a little while!

I first saw the London Rollergirls at Pride! I can’t quite remember the year but they were skating in the parade through the city. I checked them out later that evening and was so surprised to find out they had home games in my area, I went to my first bout not long after that.

What made you want to try it?
It just looked so cool and tough, it’s the perfect mixture of all things that I like.

Did you have any skating experience before you started Fundamentals? Have you played any other sports before?
I had gone around my local park a few times, but it always felt too daunting. Once I had signed up for Fundamentals, I found that having a start date gave me a kick in the butt to get my skates on and work on being able to move forwards before my first session.  I started going to some beginner skating lessons and had a few visits to the roller disco.  In the past I have tried many different types of dance and did aerial hoop off and on for a year, despite all of this I’ve never found my ‘thing’. Until derby, I’m hooked.

What is your favourite thing you have learned in training so far? What has been the most challenging thing?
Last practice we did jumps for the first time! I can’t believe that after 6 weeks, I am able to jump over cones and a cardboard box.  The most challenging thing thus far is transitions, it’s going to be something I have to drill over and over.

What’s the best thing about learning to play roller derby?
I love watching home games or games on youtube, it’s so motivating to see high levels of skating. I can’t wait until I can get to that level, and be able to make contact.
Have you thought about a derby name yet? If so what is it?
I am so indecisive, I have a whole list of it on my phone. I’m leaning toward Virus, but Toxin is close by.

Do you have any other hobbies? (besides derby!) What do you like to get up to when you’re not skating?
I really enjoy aerial hoop but I’ve kind of deserted it for skating, I can’t lie!

What advice would you give someone thinking about trying roller derby?
Go for it! Everyone in derby is so welcoming and supportive. After only a few sessions you will have made so much progress.  I recommend skating a little bit before going to your first practice, just to get the initial nerves of being on
wheels out of the way. I highly recommend Skate Tone, they have awesome beginner skating classes all over London.  If you sign up for fundamentals do not try to shape your mouth guard a few hours before your first practice, I have never felt so much panic and regret!

 

If you want to learn about our Fundamentals Programme you can find all the information here!

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