The LA Galaxy won two MLS Cups before 2007, but in terms of the current direction of the club no moment has been more seminal that the arrival of David Beckham and the corresponding rebrand to the blue and gold LA Galaxy. The design process is often a fascinating period of drafting and redrafting, so I asked some questions of Alexi Lalas to get a sense of how that design process played out.
There were plenty of articles written at the time of the rebranding on what the various design elements meant. My questions focused more on the process. Which came first: the blue and gold color scheme or the quasar logo? Why white, when the trend in MLS was color?
MLS teams at the turn of the century all had an all white kit in their closets as an away uniform. In those early days of shootouts and clocks counting down, MLS tried to use the color at home, white on the road tradition of American sports. When those rules were relaxed teams tended to stick with color as their primary. LA went against trend in 2007 debuting an all-white kit.
"We knew we wanted an all white effect early on," said Lalas. "[it] tied into Beckham's association with Real Madrid, as well as the clean look we wanted."
As M. Willis argues in his Soccer out of Context series, teams that use all white kits like Real Madrid, Tottenham, and the English national team use it as a primary color, it's not a base color the way MLS originally used it and how most American sports teams use it. The visual language of soccer looks at white in a different way, and for LA it allowed them to tie into that language while tying into Beckham's two teams at the time.
Teams that wear white take it on as part of their identity: los blancos at Real Madrid, the lilywhites of Tottenham Hotspur. The Galaxy have embraced white as part of their visual identity, ensuring Beckham's legacy will last well after his retirement.
According to Lalas, the rebranding effort began in earnest when Beckham signed the pre-contract to come over to the Galaxy in late 2006. This happened soon after MLS created the Designated Player rule with AEG, adidas, and SME branding coming together on November 12th, 2006 to get the ball rolling on the biggest set of changes in franchise history.
The LA Galaxy of 1996 began with teal and black colors on trend in US sports at the time. That teal darkened to a forest green when the team moved into the Home Depot Center following another American sports trend of going to a darker shade, but in going to the navy blue the hope was to tie in to a greater space theme.
Certainly it also didn't hurt that Real Madrid used the same color scheme. That first all white LA Galaxy kit use curvy accents on the side just like Madrid did at the time. Like on Madrid's all white kit, the use of blue as a secondary color against an optic white background makes the blue more impactful.
The quasar also came into play fairly early on in the process. Knowing that David Beckham would bring international attention, "we wanted an international, cosmopolitan type look. We were trying to be a team that's recognized internationally." The simple quasar logo would certainly do that, and it came with a simplification from Los Angeles to LA.
It came about as the same time that the Dallas Burn became FC Dallas, not to mention Red Bull New York, Toronto FC, Houston Dynamo, Real Salt Lake, Chivas USA, and within a few years we'd get Sporting Kansas City. Teams were adding FC and SC to their official name left and right.
Lalas contended that it was easy to resist the trend as there was "established value in the name Galaxy". Though he did admit the name Galaxy FC may have been tossed around. As the first Los Angeles based team to switch to LA officially there was still some innovation to the new name, but "thanks to the Baywatch effect, it's understood that LA means Los Angeles."
The simplified, easy to recognise internationally logo wasn't the only one on the table. One of the prototype logos that's come up in research featured two bears on either side of the quasar shield crest. With the San Jose Earthquakes still on hiatus at the time, tying into a notion of being California's team with David Beckham coming over must have been tempting.
The animals were scrapped because, as Lalas said "animals clutter things up". There are some soccer crests out there with animals holding up a crest (Newcastle United springs to mind), but those usually tie directly into a crest used by the local town. So again there's the temptation to use European influences with the Galaxy name about to go international.
Seven years later the LA Galaxy have built upon a thought out and well planned re-birth. It came because Tim Leiweke was eager to take advantage of a new rule, but it also came at a time when the Galaxy were missing the playoffs for the first time in club history. When Chivas USA were second in MLS attendance.
"The rebrand is something I'm proud of," said Lalas. "It worked, it's lasted, and it made the moment more effective." LA would use a Beckham announcement to unveil the return of the sash in 2012, using the same philosophy. If there's something LA knows how to do well, it's how to play up a big moment.