Hartwell Studio Works

Sports Branding Blog

Deep thoughts from the studio on all things sports, creative, and some other stuff in-between.

Digging Into Your Small College Story (with help from the Montréal Alouettes)


After winning the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup in 2009 and 2010, the Montréal Alouettes hit a rough patch. Finishing 5-13 last season, they missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year and announced the closing of 5,000 seats at Molson Stadium due to lack of fan interest. Ouch.

In the face of such stark circumstances, the team responded by unveiling a new brand identity. It’s not just a new logo, but a top to bottom reimagining of the team in order to better connect with fans.

Old logo on left, new mark on right.

Old logo on left, new mark on right.

A great video from the Alouettes outlining the thinking behind the rebrand. Worth the six minute watch.

Executed by a Québec City agency, the new identity is bold and daring for all the right reasons. It serves as a good case study for what’s possible with your college athletics brand.

It’s all about the story: With an urgent need to reconnect with fans, the Alouettes dug into their DNA – their story – to identify those values, vision, and character important to the team and fan base.

Small college athletics are about story as well. Recruits, sponsors, and donors aren’t necessarily attracted to you because of your W’s, but because of the values and character you represent. Can you tell that story?

Know thy audience: The Alouettes represent one of North America’s most culturally unique cities. Montréalers have a distinctive style, taste, and (literally) language all their own.

As a small college, your institution also serves a unique audience. Your athletics brand does best when it speaks to that audience’s distinctive needs, demonstrating an understanding of who they are why you’re a good fit for them.

Be different: Focused on story and audience, the new identity commands attention with a boldly different football look. From the helmet design to the fashion applications, the Alouettes are uniquely about all things Montréal.

Your athletics program deserves the same kind of attention. A well-grounded, differentiated identity stands out in a crowded market, making the emphatic case for who you are and why you matter.   

This new Alouettes identity is a great example of bold and daring not for its own sake, but for the sake of meeting urgent practical needs. If your athletics program has its own urgent needs, let’s dig into your story and reforge your brand.

For more on developing your brand story, check out these two episodes of the Hartwell Studio Works Sports Branding Podcast:

Episode #2: Create Your Brand Story, Part 1

Episode #3: Create Your Brand Story, Part 2

John Hartwell