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San Jose Earthquakes re-branding brings club and supporters together

Since 1974, soccer in San Jose has been synonymous with the Earthquakes. Later this month, in celebration of its 40th anniversary, the club will unveil a new logo (perhaps something like the fan-inspired design above?) based on the rich tradition of Quakes soccer.

Twitter user @QuakesNation has a great idea for the new San Jose Earthquakes logo
Twitter user @QuakesNation has a great idea for the new San Jose Earthquakes logo

The San Jose Earthquakes made quite a splash on New Year's Day across social media as the club announced that a new logo would be unveiled as part of the 40th anniversary of its founding. One of four west coast teams that joined the NASL in 1974, the Earthquakes have a rich tradition of soccer in the Bay Area that spans numerous leagues and organizations. And for those 40 years, supporters in San Jose have always rallied to the cause.

The re-branding of the Earthquakes -- more of a coalescing of the ideals that the club has maintained for the better part of four decades -- comes at a pivotal time for the club. Its current iteration stands on the doorstep of a new era for professional soccer by the Bay: Within the calendar year, the Quakes are expected to move into their own purpose-built soccer stadium. No more Spartan Stadium. No more Buck Shaw Stadium. Finally, a chance to plant roots in the fertile Santa Clara Valley soil.

Team president Dave Kaval carries the baton for the club's re-branding, having over a year ago initiated the process to bring together stakeholders from the organization and the community to answer the question: "What are the San Jose Earthquakes to you?" The responses he received, according to a recent Kaval's Kickoff blog post, were instrumental in charting the path forward for the club.

Unity, Devotion, and Heritage -- these are the three pillars on which the reunification of Earthquakes supporters throughout the 40-year history of the club will be built. Multiple monikers have graced the fronts of numerous jerseys since 1974, but fans and players alike have always striven toward a common goal: Make San Jose proud. The results on the field haven't always followed, though the tide of expectations is turning.

The ethos of the Quakes as the hard-working underdog has always permeated within the club, especially in contrast to the glitz and glamor embraced by rival clubs in Los Angeles, but that should never serve as an excuse to act with a small-club mentality. The supporters demand more and the Earthquakes have taken steps to deliver. Re-branding the club at this stage could simply be seen as a marketing ploy, something those in tech-savvy Silicon Valley are weary of given the daily barrage of "The Next Best Thing" promises flooding their senses. But it is much more than that.

Major League Soccer is growing at a tremendous rate in the national and international sporting conscious. The league has recently made prodigal offers to attract the best U.S. soccer players, once told to prove their worth overseas, back to its shores. Television broadcasting rights contracts, though miniscule compared to the other big-time American sports, are set to double in the near future. Soccer stadiums are being built not only for MLS, but also for teams in lower divisions. The momentum forward and upward is undeniable.

And the Earthquakes organization understands this future. Unveiling a new logo is not even remotely close to a gimmick to sell more merchandise -- it about bringing together all the voices that have been raised from the stands to the fields in support of soccer in San Jose. It is not about creating a new identity, but rather joining together the passions of fans, new and old, with a banner under which all can rally.

The current Earthquakes badge, with its homage to the City of San Jose through its sunburst design, is too often derided as cartoonish and not befitting a serious soccer club. Still, it is a part of the club's legacy and tradition, as are the other logs that have appeared in the past 40 years. And in the lead up to the Quakes 40th Anniversary Celebration on January 30, when the club will officially present its new logo, fan-inspired designs have come to light that represent their fervor for the Earthquakes. These fans can only hope that the club itself has moved forward with its re-branding with much of the same devotion.

The look of the new logo, still three weeks from its unveiling, is sure to have its detractors. Likely, many more are sure to embrace it enthusiastically. But more important than the logo, though, is the bringing together of the San Jose soccer community in support of a club that has always been theirs. Kaval and company are the curators of the Earthquakes brand, but the supporters are its spiritual owners. Quite frankly, the new badge, whether it is loved or hated, will simply act as the club's new visual identity. The three pillars of unity, devotion, and heritage will remain its backbone.