The Athletic Launches Elevated New Brand Identity and Campaign by Gretel

Subscription-based digital sports media company The Athletic has unveiled its new brand identity system in partnership with global design studio Gretel.

The two groups collaborated to develop fresh positioning and a new visual strategy, as well as a bold new campaign that celebrates The Athletic’s commitment to smart longform sports content. The new brand highlights the value of its subscription-based model and shows off the company’s updated and elevated purpose.

“We’ve long wanted to evolve our brand to match the quality of our storytelling,” said Charlotte Winthrop, VP of Marketing for The Athletic. “This new foundation elevates all of our efforts towards deepening the connections between fans and the sports they love.”

“The sports reporting category often goes wide but not deep and quick recaps and highlights build consistent engagement, but lose the nuance and culture around the game which are the visceral benefits at the heart of The Athletic’s best coverage,” said Daniel Edmundson, Strategy Director at Gretel. “The Athletic’s new identity captures the brand’s sense of care, rigor and optimism as a strategic foundation, ultimately creating a powerful and distinct brand on top of an already superior product.”

Gold standard

Founded in 2016, The Athletic creates in-depth sports coverage for local fans craving a deeper connection with their teams. To grow both their audience and writer base, The Athletic needed to develop their brand story, establishing value on a global scale. In early 2020, The Athletic partnered with Gretel, the New York-based global studio behind the branding for Netflix, Vice and The New York Times’ The Daily podcast and together, they refined The Athletic’s brand purpose: to immerse fans in the power of sport. This elevated brand narrative speaks to the heart of The Athletic’s journalistic endeavors while recognizing the emotional and cultural impact of sports.

Passion and purpose

To arrive at the new brand strategy, Gretel engaged The Athletic in a discovery process that saw the team working closely with co-founders Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann, as well as leadership from the company’s Marketing and Design teams. Gretel’s Edmundson explains, “We dug deep into what makes the brand unique, better understanding how to define different audience segments and broadening their core messaging, all while maintaining the dynamism and energy behind what makes The Athletic reader unique.”

Gretel held workshops with stakeholders across the company, including journalists for the publication, as well as sports fans and long-time readers of The Athletic. The findings created an overarching strategy, design system, brand personality, and internal values that feel singular to The Athletic and can last for years to come.

Get inline

The visual identity builds off the brand’s purpose and is designed to connect fans to the sports, teams, cities and players they love.

“The Athletic publishes high-quality, in-depth writing that creates context around sports news rather than showing endless highlights, and actively engages fans on a deeper level,” said Simon Chong, Creative Director at Gretel.  “We wanted that sense of elevation and intelligence to permeate the visual experience of the site just as much as it does the actual content.”

Using The Athletic’s original inline logo as a starting point, the system expands to include the inline throughout the identity, evoking a sense of continuous connection. Gretel designed a new wordmark to pair with the existing logo and the new system. Using slab characters, it expresses a thoroughly smart, modern brand with a nostalgic spirit.

In partnership with A2 Type, Gretel created a custom inline font, based on A2’s Regular Slab and the Athletic’s logo itself. Designed to be used at headline sizes, the font provides the ability to brand any application, purely with type.

The color palette elevates The Athletic’s previous monochromatic scheme, now consisting of neutral and nuanced warm grays. A secondary color palette is designed to complement any team color, giving readers a chance to feel even more deeply connected to the content and the platform.

The power of sports

To coincide with the unveiling of the elevated brand and new design system, The Athletic and Gretel worked together to produce a campaign across various channels including social, print and OTT. Anchored by the power of sports and its ability to fundamentally change us, the campaign features key, singular moments from sports history.

The campaign puts the new identity system into action, showcasing the power of the brand and the community it supports, through every tool now available to The Athletic, from visual design to tone of voice to clearly articulated purpose and everything in between.

Gretel’s Simon Chong says: “Many of us at Gretel are sports fans ourselves, so the opportunity to combine our interests with our passion for design has led us to create a remarkable brand for The Athletic, one which transforms the successful product to a lasting brand, and further elevates the presentation of sports stories to the quality of the writing that they are known and loved for.”

 For more information about Gretel please contact Katie Crosta:, or Ruby Goom:

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