Eight new teams to the Overwatch League for Season 2 means eight new brands to praise or skewer depending on their initial entry into the league. Note that these rankings have very little to do with factors like roster acquisitions (beyond brand name power) and talent and everything to do with color scheme, name, outreach, and logo design. For those who rank at the bottom, fear not, the Philadelphia Fusion had a hilarious series of initial social media gaffes that later became memes en route to being a Season 1 finalist. The New York Excelsior branding was initially characterized as a graphic designer’s worst nightmare, or a return of the ’90s Magic Eye puzzles, and now it’s one of the most recognizable brands in the league. At the beginning there may be mistakes, but there’s always hope.
8. Washington Justice
Xander Torres: “Star-spangled banner” is fun to say, but not fun to look at. Branding has never been a strong point for D.C. sports teams and the Justice continues that trend. Leave the getup for Independence Day. I’m sure our Nation’s capital is great, but I doubt anyone in D.C. feels that patriotism is this embedded into their identity.
Emily Rand: One thing I love about my nation’s capital is its license plates which hilariously have some form of the pre-Revolutionary War phrase, “No taxation without representation.” I enjoy a clever and historical dig. Since the gods or fates or whatever one believes in have ordained that any team in D.C. must be somehow related to United States nationalism, I prefer something like the D.C. license plate over something like the Justice branding. More snark, less U-S-A, U-S-A.
7. Toronto Defiant
Xander: I think Defiant is a pretty mediocre name, but the overall branding really skids off the road. The color palette of black (or really, grey) and red does the job, but is particularly un-exciting when compared to the rest of the league. The “D” and “T” logo is also rather pedestrian as far as logos go, practically imitating the aesthetic of long forgotten skater brands. Actually, long forgotten skater brands or budget Assassin’s Creed probably fits the Defiant best.
Emily: I like the name “Defiant” but everything else about this reveal seems lackluster. That doesn’t mean bad, but when you’re up against other teams with stronger logos, more interesting color schemes, especially once seen on the in-game hero models, and stronger catchphrases, it just doesn’t cut it. Also I’m unsure as to whether the “T” and the “D” were meant to create an arrow in their negative space, or if that’s an unintended side effect of the logo.
6. Guangzhou Charge
Xander: Guangzhou is the origin city of Dim Sum, but unfortunately the Charge branding fails to offer a little bit of everything. The use of space between the “G” and “Z” to form a lightning bolt is cute, but does little to deliver an interesting logo. Granted, with a name like Charge, the logo either had to be some sort of thunder cloud or just the lettering all together. Still, I have to give credit for the Charge’s beautiful cyan and indigo color scheme. That’s what kept it safely over the Defiant, despite the branding being fairly vanilla.
Emily: Speaking of negative space within their logos, the Guangzhou Charge have a lightning bolt purposefully placed between the “G” and the “Z” and a pleasant color scheme but a fairly boring name. I wish teams would stop trying to put initials in their logos (that’s right Shock and Uprising, I’m not a huge fan of your logos either) and instead go for a clean logo with no initials, or do the full commitment like the Spitfire, who have their entire city name in their logo.
5. Paris Eternal
Xander: I’m tired of red, white, and blue, but I generally enjoy the Paris Eternal branding. They’re not knocking it out of the park by any means, but the colors are traditional French sporting colors and the Gallic rooster has been a symbol for national teams as well. I’m a sucker for the line work that makes the logo and the cute infinity symbol it sneaks inside. As far as names go, Eternal is just okay. It’s hard to hate or love it.
Emily: Paris Eternal is an example of a brand where I like pretty much everything but the name. I understand why they picked it (for the eternal flame at the Arc de Triomphe, if anyone was wondering) and I even like the idea behind picking it but there’s something about the name itself, a lack of punchiness or catchiness, that I don’t like. The color scheme is fine, although blue, red, and white are common colors, and my feelings on them here are about the same as my feelings on the Justice using them as well. Name and colors aside, I love their logo. I didn’t expect to like it so much (and didn’t) upon first reveal, but it’s a grower, especially once you see the infinity symbol inside.
4. Atlanta Reign
Xander: At first glance of the Atlanta Reign branding, I immediately thought of Team Valor from Pokémon GO when looking at the Phoenix crest. The logo is bold, red, and has one of my favorite mythical creatures. Despite Reign not being an overly exciting name, it matches up well with the “high fantasy” logo. The colors might not be exciting, giving the league yet another red, but I can’t really complain when it’s matched up with a phoenix.
Emily: I actually am leaning towards putting the Eternal above the Reign in my personal power ranking, but they’re fairly even with each other and also, in my opinion, well below the top three on this list. Reign is a good, brief name that’s punchy and easy to say, or yell in a crowd. While I wish that teams would go for more fun or outlandish designs, like the fan-offering of Atlanta Peaches, phoenixes make for strong logos and the Reign’s is no exception.
3. Vancouver Titans
Xander: The Vancouver Titans are the first of the three titans on our branding power ranking. Vancouver immediately grabs the eye with a unique green and blue pairing representative of the Pacific Northwest. Diving further into that, Vancouver elected to use a sasquatch as their mascot, also harkening back to the mountainous regions in America. As a total shoutout to the Pacific Northwest, sasquatch, colors, mountain ranges and all, the Vancouver Titans cleverly created a brand appropriate for their city.
Emily: Up to this point, a lot of these paragraphs have been more complaints than compliments, but I feel it’s necessary to pause here and say that I don’t despise any of the brands below the top three, it’s just that they’re not particularly original for one reason or another. Vancouver in third place on this list is really where brands begin to separate from the pack. The Titans have a strong name, vibrant green and blue color scheme that ties into their geographical location, and focus on their sasquatch logo rather than trying to fit in initials or a name. There’s also a clever “V” for Vancouver on the sasquatch’s nose, and a mountain range on his forehead, again reflecting the location of the city. All-in-all, a very well thought-out and strong brand launch.
2. Chengdu Hunters
Xander: Pandas are great. They sit around, eat bamboo, and occasionally kill their young by sitting on them. They also make a perfect mascot for an esports team, the Chengdu Hunters. As one of the primary symbols of Chengdu, the Panda is an appropriate logo and mascot for their debut brand. Also, it’s not just a Panda, but it’s a mad Panda. Someone stole its bamboo or woke it up from a fat nap. Pandas aren’t traditionally hunters — largely because they forgot how to be carnivores- – but this one is absolutely on the loose. It may not be the greatest match, but Hunters is a great name and easy for any fan to latch on to. Clad in Huya orange and Royal Never Give Up gold and black, the Hunters have a new, stylish, and unique color scheme for when they patrol the forest.
Emily: One of the more recent ad campaigns for Sichuan Province, home of Chengdu, is “More than pandas.” The Chengdu Hunters eschew this attitude completely by leaning in on the panda as a symbol of Chengdu. While I love pandas, I think placing them next to the word “Hunters” is just a bit disingenuous; however, everything else about Chengdu’s branding and the way they’ve announced their players, is fun and stands out. Even the panda as a bad hunter is a fun talking point that makes people talk about the team. The gold/yellow and black also make a splash in and out of game.
1. Hangzhou Spark
Xander: Warning: Weeb bias coming in hot. It’s well-known by now that the Hangzhou Spark branding is totally inspired by Misaka Mikoto from A Certain Magical Index spinoff, A Certain Scientific Railgun. Index wasn’t the greatest, but Railgun was just as bright and fun as the Hangzhou Spark branding. Put simply, the effort to totally base a brand around Misaka Mikoto’s electromagnetic railgun technique was executed to perfection and will not be forgotten.
While “Railgun” was rejected as the team name, Spark does the brand justice by being short and sweet, while also having more overall brand synergy than Guangzhou’s Charge. In my opinion, the logo is not as great as Chengdu’s angry Panda, but the Misaka Mikoto finger gun coursing with electricity still earns #2. And tying it all together, the Spark have chosen a gorgeous and weeb-friendly bubblegum pop color scheme to totally separate themselves from the rest of the league. The Spark’s brand screams weeb, nerd, and fun all in one go. In a world where esports seeks to become more and more serious, the Spark’s brand is not only appreciated but vitally necessary. Also, I’m buying every skin.
Emily: Full disclosure, I love anime. I’ll probably receive a lot of flack for saying that I’m not the largest fan of A Certain Magical Index, but I did like A Certain Scientific Railgun. Railgun — which streams on Bilibili, the Hangzhou Spark’s parent company, and “bili-bili” or “biri-biri” not-so-coincidentally is onomatopoeia for sparks of electricity — was rejected as a brand name, but Spark is short, punchy, and still related to the overall theme of their brand. They also kept a nod to the Railgun character, Misaka Mikoto, in the logo with the finger trigger for her railgun ability. Everything in this logo and name is related on multiple levels in an impressive way.
Not only is the brand and logo carefully thought-out, but Hangzhou’s colors are a brilliant pink and baby blue combination that is fun and also unique. In a sea of red/black/white/blue/grey combinations, pink and baby blue are noticeable, easy to follow, and stand out onscreen and on a jersey. The only thing that the Spark need to do now is make a limited edition Misaka Mikoto jersey. I would buy that in a heartbeat.
All photos courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment. Header photo courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.