With the Overwatch League preseason just starting up, the teams participating in the game’s first global esports league have precious little time to get those last hours of grinding and practice in before they face off for their inaugural official matches. But the players aren’t the only ones rushing to exercise their talent and skill – there’s another battle being fought long before the games begin. To sustain Overwatch’s growth, it takes more than just skilled players, it also takes a dedicated and ever-expanding audience.
Behind The Scenes Activity
The non-competing members of each city’s franchise are working hard to establish their team as household names in the esports community, spreading word of their players’ past accomplishments and affiliations, getting their fans together through social media, and competing for the strongest brand recognition in the field. You’ll find that each and every participating team has created a corresponding network of social media amping up their popularity months in advance, such as New York OWL team Excelsior, who have gained a considerable lead in terms of sharing with fans the homegrown yet futuristic aspirations of their team’s style and logo. NYXL, who brought on local design firm Mother Design to produce their metropolitan image, explains that the minimalist X logo intends to call upon “the visual characteristics of NYC” such as skyscrapers, street walkways, subway maps as well as symbolize “the union of different people into one, something uniquely New York.”
But for all of their posturing about the emblematic nature of the brand, they stand a sole contributor in the OWL of a design that doesn’t in any way mirror traditional sports iconography in their logo. Philadelphia Fusion (who have since dropped out of pre-season eligibility) and Florida Mayhem, originally set against each other for the first match of pre-season, have both chosen logos that are closer to their local sports teams’ designs.
NYXL’s Contrast With The Competition
Meanwhile, NYXL is set to face off against Boston Uprising, a team that has chosen a highly recognizable aesthetic for their logo that hearkens back to Boston’s colleges and, more notably, its NFL team, the New England Patriots. This choice is undoubtedly an intentional strike at the heart of Bostonian passion. As Amelia Savery wrote for Blizzard’s feature on Boston Uprising, “If sports fanaticism were a romantic relationship, the kind Bostonians possess would be the high-school sweetheart you married young and stayed with until death. You would defend it when it misbehaved, celebrate it with bravado when it succeeded, and hold it lovingly, always, as a part of who you are. Bostonians carry their fandom in their hearts, and it is passed down from generation to generation through their blood.” Taking a look at the community gathered around Uprising seems to confirm that stereotype, with Boston fans eager to rally together and plan OWL-themed events in the heart of Massachusetts.
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Each city appears to be playing to the strengths of their local fan base, but not every fan is happy about the decision to stick to their roots. Over on the official subreddit for Boston Uprising, fans have expressed mixed opinions about the new look. One user /u/__ciao even commented, “I’m a fan of Overwatch and Boston, and the Uprising will be my team without a doubt. I feel bad for saying this, but I think that we have the most uninspired logo and worst colors in all of the OWL.”
Enthusiastic Uprising Fans Defend the Brand
Other Uprising fans were quick to discuss and defend the franchise’s aesthetic direction, with many users being reminded of Boston’s proud, resilient spirit expressed on local university campuses and at football events. The lettering is collegiate in nature and rigidly lined, yet still colorful enough to stand out in a crowd. The strong yellow and blue stand in deep contrast to their first competitor NYXL’s more moderate logo, a prescient reflection of the team rosters themselves, with NYXL’s roster being comprised of the League’s youngest and most innovative Korean stars in the scene, including OWWC champ Jong-yeol “Saebyeolbe” Park.
Though it may seem to some unaware of Uprising’s strengths that Boston is in for a surefire thrashing, popular color commentator MonteCristo has spoken of his faith in the team’s leadership to choose the right staff for the job: “I have a lot of confidence that they know exactly what they want in terms of managing and coaches, and it’s very important to them that the manager and everybody clicks with the organization… Internally, they’ve built the most successful American sports team in the modern era, basically.”