CREATING A SPORT FROM SCRATCH
National Pro GRID League
When I met the former Head of Media and Web Content and Codirector of the CrossFit Games (Tony Budding) he was a man possessed by an idea. A visionary with a healthy budget, a signed TV deal with NBC, and a goal to launch a brand new sport on National television in 8 months' time. A tall order to say the least.
For my part, I was asked to create almost everything except the actual sport itself. This included naming the sport and the league, designing the field of play, website design, display advertising, crafting team and league identities, infographic, apparel, and the graphics package to be used during the TV broadcast.
NAMING THE SPORT
The sport itself hadn’t been developed yet, but it still needed a name. The sports name, GRID, came from the idea that once the game took root, each team would have their respective home gyms, or as Crossfiters call them, “boxes.” So, once the league reached the size of other professional sports, there would be around 30 home base “boxes” scattered around the country, each housing a city’s local professional pro GRID team. A collection of boxes or squares organized in a strict formation creates a grid. It was that simple. The name is Spartan to match the athletes themselves, who train in a box and compete on a grid.
A LOGO FOR ALL TO READ
We first had to establish the sport of GRID before we could legitimize the NPGL league. This meant every spectator had to know what GRID was at whatever angle they saw it, which made the use of an ambigram perfect for this purpose.
DESIGNING THE FIELD OF PLAY
My goal was to create a simple court that was easy to follow, no matter at what point in action you arrived. After all, these were exciting races, so there had to be a definite start and finish line and various size increments so the spectators could compare both the team's progress.
The field of play had to have room for two teams. If they were going to race, they needed a start and finish line. GRID matches are in the same arenas as basketball and hockey, so I had some basic parameters.
Using the same design language of more traditional sports like football, basketball, and hockey, I was also able to create something instantly familiar to the spectator while at the same time subservient to the action of the athletes.
In order to build a loyal fanbase, the website had to deliver all of the content the modern sports buff demands. It had to organize video content, statistical and scheduling information, along with portals to individual team sites and e-commerce.
The sport of GRID is packed with speed and physical energy. The design of their display campaign had to duplicate these attributes visually as well as typographically. Whether the ads were selling streaming services, tickets or airing times on NBC, the excitement and energy had to be present.
Where the fans and the league intersect is with the individual teams themselves. When crafting the identities you had to keep in mind that these logos would be profit centers. If well designed, sales of merchandise would fund the teams and enable the success of the league.
Distinctive color systems, iconic illustrations, and memorable subject matter a local fan-base could embrace and make their own.
BROADCAST GRAPHICS PACKAGE
The goal when designing the broadcast graphics package was to be on-brand for the NPGL while at the same time honoring NBC's style. There was also an educational component as the graphics had to also introduce elements of this fledgling sport to the spectators.
Every year a new identity package had to be designed for the GRID Finals. After the first season, a trophy was designed and was then incorporated into these logos. These logos were used on the athlete's uniforms as well as merch and the TV graphics package.
At the end of the first season, I created a brand book that included all of the logo usage guides, nomenclature, colors, typography, logo placement on equipment, the field of play and corresponding dimensions and everything associated with the sport of GRID and the NPGL league. Fun Fact: At one point, the league was called the NPFL.
Infographics were created to help teach gyms and other affiliate groups on how to play the game of GRID. Posters were distributed at live events and Crossfit gyms all over the world were hanging them up and running the races. The goal of this project was to educate as well as entertain.