Steelbacks' new look signals 'shift in vision' for Northants
Northamptonshire Steelbacks will have a new look when they take to the field this summer.
The County have announced a rebrand for the club's white ball teams, with a smart new crest having been created to adorn the playing shirts and training gear.
Out goes the shield type badge featuring a soldier from the 19th century British Army Northamptonshire Regiment from which the team takes its name, and in comes a modern and crisp S logo, incorporating the 'Steelbacks Spirit', not unlike those used by American sports teams.
With a new season on the horizon, the club has taken the opportunity to undertake a 'shift in vision and mission', and as well as a new badge, they have also decided to bring the club's junior pathway and recreational cricket arms under the same 'Steelbacks umbrella'.
All the club's junior teams will now be known as the Steelbacks, while the former Northamptonshire Recreational Cricket Board department will become Steelbacks In The Community.
The crux of the rebrand is to inspire a new generation to become engaged with Northants cricket.
The new Steelbacks logo will stand alongside the club's traditional Tudor Rose emblem, which the club insists remains the primary brand.
The new look and club rebrand has been almost a year in the making, and is the brainchild of the club's media and marketing department, who are marketing manager Daniel Vernon and communications and digital executive Alex Berry.
Chief executive Ray Payne is delighted with the results, and also excited about a new direction for the club that has been a long time in the making, but given extra prominence due to the Covid-19 pandemic having put paid to most of the 2020 cricket season.
"In truth, this sort of enforced closure we have had for almost a year, although we did play a bit last summer, has enabled us as a business to take a step back," said Payne.
"We have business plans, mission statements and goals, and this has enabled to really examine those more than we would with normal trading circumstances and everything going on around you.
"We started talking about this early last summer, in terms of what we were trying to achieve as a mission statement for the next five years, about inspiring a new generation, and engaging new people to the game.
"And to do that not only through the elite sport, but to do it through the County set up as well."
But why the need for a new badge?
"The disconnect we found was, the strength of the Steelbacks seemed to be without question," said Payne.
"We held focus groups and people liked the name, and I don't think that was ever going to go, but the emblem and the badge most people couldn't tell us what it was.
"We would say 'what do you think of it?', and they would just say 'what is it?'
"And when you think the that the greater crowds come to watch that (white ball cricket), when it came to retail and clothing, the rose outsold the Steelbacks stuff 10 to one.
"We wanted something that was fresh, that felt like a relaunch after the close, that would resonate with the younger audience and be a logo they would like.
"It would also sit well on merchandising, sit well on shirts, and sit well when we are designing a six-foot tall badge to go up at the ground.
“We wanted to bring the brand more in line with our vision as a club and to have an identity that will sit up there with some of the stronger sports brands worldwide.
"After some great work by Daniel and Alex, I think we have got there."
The Steelbacks name was first taken on by the club's one day teams in 1999.
The name is taken from the county’s army regiment founded in 1881, with the Steelbacks being a nickname they received for their courage and determination, and Vernon says this heritage played a crucial role in the brand.
“It’s clear how much the Steelbacks name and ‘made of steel’ connects with our supporters," he said. "So there was never a thought of moving away from that.
"We wanted to look at the deeper meaning behind it, what it meant to the regiment at the time and what that meant to us as a club today. That was really the core of the whole process.”
The launch of the rebrand and new badge is just the start of things though, with Payne outlining what, on top of the first team's hopeful success, the club's plans are for 2021 and beyond.
"We want to get the Steelbacks out there, get cricket in the community, and we have a range of plans in place," said the chief executive.
"We are hoping to start with extended summer camps from April, using the new Steelbacks brand, and getting it out there on shirts, on t-shirts, and then it will also be on the shirts of the first team squad and the Academy.
"What we are really hoping to do is relaunch cricket, engage young people, whether they are participating or coming to watch, and also taking it out to our national counties partnerships, who we work with really closely now and are very important to us.
"That is Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Buckinghamshire, and we are talking to them about perhaps their young teams being the Buckinghamshire Steelbacks, or whatever.
"It is going to evolve and grow, and it seems to have some energy at the moment which we are grasping hold of."