The Overwatch League, though considerably older than the CDL, has seen fewer rebrandings than even the one Chicago spot in the Call of Duty League. Is rebranding a positive element of a team that can bring back to life a team or is it a way to create a disconnect with the old fans? Is rebranding worth it for the Overwatch League teams? Are there more benefits than drawbacks? The Overwatch League seems to lean towards more partial rebranding of the teams, instead of complete rebrands, through color scheme changes, organization changes, and roster redirections.
Color Scheme Changes
The most blatant change in the Overwatch League is when a team changes their colors. This has happened a few times in the history of the League. The most noticeable was the Florida Mayhem when they went from the red and yellow of Season 1 to the Miami vice pink and blue the following season. The LA Valiant also went through a number of changes from the different tones of green and yellow to ultimately changing to a light blue and yellow. A number of other teams such as the San Francisco Shock have also gone through some subtle color-shifting throughout the seasons so that their main color of orange changed to gray.
Benefits and Drawbacks
The color changes can be controversial and met with differing responses. Though is chatter around a team because of the color changes a positive whether the comments are good or bad. As the saying goes all press is good press. The majority of the League’s fans seemed pleased with the change that the Florida Mayhem enacted. On the flip side, the LA Valiant changes were met with quite a bit of resistance, the most with the most recent change to blue and yellow.
The color changes are not a complete rebrand but that does put a new fresh coat of paint on the brand. The logo, skins, and jerseys all get recolored. One might argue that that brings more value to the jerseys in comparison to teams that have kept the same color scheme throughout.
Rebranding can be a result of management changes. This was seen in the CDL when the Chicago Huntsmen of NRG/Hecz got control of Optic again, which trigger the change to the Chicago Optic. That in turn then had the LA Optic team rebrand to the LA Thieves. Now the Chicago slot is empty as the Optic name and brand again rebrands as it moves to merges with Envy and the Dallas Empire.
Though the Houston Outlaws were sold and went under new management; they did not rebrand. This could be because none of the teams in the Overwatch League have the organization’s brand name within the Overwatch League team name. There are no San Francisco NRG or Florida Misfits. Therefore when the team changes management the name doesn’t need to change.
Benefits and Drawbacks
But would some teams want to change their name to get the benefits of the partial rebrand? The one Overwatch League team that comes to mind is the Vancouver Titans. After the scandal that happened during their second season within the League and their adequate performance then on, a rebranding could create a fresh start for the franchise. It might distance them from the past issues, and make it harder for those events to be found in the future.
But under the same logic if the Shanghai Dragons after their 0-40 performance, if they had rebranded, would not have gotten the sweet redemption arc if they had rebranded. The team was able to twist the narrative to make it marketable. The anime storyline of the 0-40 team to winning the Overwatch League would never have been seen in the inaugural season, but seasons later it came to fruition. Hence making it a good choice not to rebrand and try and distance themselves from that rough part of their brand’s history.
Re-direction of a Roster
The biggest rebranding in the Overwatch League seems to be in the nationality of their team. This is a unique element compared to the CDL. When a team decides to switch from an all-Korean team to a non-Korean team that is a big rebranding commitment. The same can be said if a team decides it is going to be going in the opposite direction as well. That is a huge change in the structure and usually the promotion of the team. It can even be a cause of changing of regions.
Roster Changes in the Overwatch League
One of the biggest changes is when C9, the London Spitfire, went from having an all-Korean roster for three seasons, one of which won the whole inaugural season. Their dramatic change to a non-Korean roster was one of the bigger redirections of a team whose legacy was built on Korean players.
A few teams have gone the other direction. In Season 1, both the Houston Outlaws and the Florida Mayhem at the beginning had no Koreans on the team. The Houston Outlaws went mixed for the seasons to come, but the Florida Mayhem went all Korean. This was a big turnaround from the original EU players that had started the brand off.
The LA Valiant also went through a redirection. The Immortals did not sell the team, as they retain ownership, but is operated by LGE.Huya. This means that the LA-based team moved across the globe to China. Along with the region change also came a roster change. The previously mixed roster turned into a fully Chinese player and coached team.
Benefits and Drawbacks
Many fans in the Overwatch League follow the players and not the teams as much. When a team decides to go a certain direction, they will face a whole new culture of fans. With the Korean players, fan photos and gift drops are normal. While non-Korean players might prefer a different work schedule than Korean players off of cultures. These are adjustments that need to be made for the team to be effective. This was seen with the Houston Outlaws when they used a fan taken photo and removed the watermark, which is a huge faux pas in the Korean community. On the flip side, it can bring another group of fans into the community. New faces and directions can bring new opportunities.
In the Overwatch League what seems to change the most is the hashtags that go with the teams. Rebranding is a tool that the CDL has utilized to varying levels of success. It is interesting how little the Overwatch League teams have taken to rebranding unlike their sister League in the CDL.
The question remains is it worth it to rebrand completely? Or is it better for a team in the Overwatch League to just partially rebrand by color changes, roster redirections, or management changes? One kind of rebranding that is yet to be seen is a logo rebranding that is not super subtle. That could also be another way for an Overwatch League team to partially rebrand. As teams go into Overwatch 2, it will be interesting to see if any of them will be looking to rebrand for this new era of the League.
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