In recent years many local authorities have transferred the management of their sports and leisure facilities to newly formed charities.
Among such charities is Manchester Sport and Leisure Trust, which manages 18 formerly council-run facilities in the city. They range from the large Sportcity complex, built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, to much smaller local facilities, such as Levenshulme Swimming Pools.
The trust hired design and marketing agency Pixel8 to develop a brand identity that would appeal to the range of people who use its facilities, from novices to athletes.
A big challenge for the agency was that the logo it created had to look good both on a business card and a vast leisure centre wall.
Jamie Watson, account director at Manchester-based Pixel8, said the strapline, 'from grass roots to greatness', was agreed early on because it seemed to encapsulate the broad mix of people served by the centres.
The agency then presented a choice of logo designs to the trust's board, which opted for one with a multi-coloured 'feather' on top of the organisation's name.
The style and colours of the logo bear a slight resemblance to the Olympic rings. It was felt that tapping into this Olympic feel would work well for a sporting organisation and would appeal to serious athletes as well as casual centre users.
"The feathers show movement, which also fits nicely with sport," adds Watson, who describes the colour combination as "refreshing".
A design problem for Pixel8 was the trust's long name. It eventually settled on a two-deck arrangement, with the word 'Manchester' in a larger font to reflect local pride in the city.
Watson says the trust's charitable status was irrelevant to the branding process. "The challenge is to make sure the branding works," he says. "It's not for us to question which sector it belongs to."
He says the process took about two months and resulted in a range of styles that can be used in various forms and in a range of media.
"The logo was well received by the trust management team and the 18 venues," he says. "It has been used as the starting point for a new website, printed promotional materials and exhibition panels."
Dan Dufour, Consultant, The Team
Standing out from the crowd has never been so important in an environment where charities compete for support and increasingly restricted public sector funding.
Whatever the sector, it is essential that the brand appeals to the masses. The good thing here is that Manchester Sport and Leisure Trust has taken the time to test the designs with stakeholders first, which always pays off. The strapline is clear, expressive and inspiring - but I am not so sure that the Olympic-style logo is such a good move. The trust might be able to ride the crest of a wave in the run-up to 2012, but I fear that its new look will seem outdated before too long.
From a practical point of view, the identity appears to work much better in a large-scale format than at minimum size, where accessibility becomes a critical issue.
5 out of 10