Paddle UK

A new name & brand for British Canoeing

British Canoeing had a branding problem. They are the National Governing Body (NGB) for canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, rafting, and pretty much every sport featuring paddles. Their name and brand structure didn’t represent this.

Their logo was confusing and they had a strong set of brand values which weren’t being adequately presented. They needed a full rebrand and approached Arch Creative. Our proposal, which included prior experience of working with NGBs, helped us win a 5-way pitch to carry out the work.

Watch our case study video below to find out how we did it.

British Canoeing’s rebrand goals were:

● Increase membership

● Engage with diverse audiences

● Unify the organisation

● Become more inclusive

● Entice commercial partners

● Clearly communicate their purpose

The beginning of a new era

Around 7 million people participate either as sport or leisure activity, however one of the main reasons for the rebrand was the rapid growth in Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP), and the fact that the majority of members are recreational paddlers. The word canoeing was no longer fully representative of members and the activity that most people take part in.

The new brand needed to be more inclusive, appealing to a wide range of stakeholders and audiences such as the 380 affiliated clubs in England, and over 400 commercial providers of paddling activity. The audiences were key, from grassroots levels through to the teams that represent Great Britain at Olympic and Paralympic Games and World & European events, the brand needed to resonate.

The key issue with rebranding a complex organisation is that it means different things to members and stakeholders across the board. We always get to know a brand inside and out before making any changes, and a crucial part of that is speaking to the stakeholders.

Stakeholder working group

We began with in-depth surveys and focus groups with a range of stakeholders. This core working group was made up of the CEO, department heads, representatives of each home nation, and other key stakeholders best suited to reshape the brand.

Hearing from the people who live and breathe the brand every day informed our approach as the rebrand developed, and a number of key issues were derived from the stakeholder working group.

British Canoeing’s main issues were:

1. The NGB had very traditional branding but wanted to shift to being more contemporary.

2. The information and expertise were there, but was difficult to access through a disjointed brand setup.

3. Uncertain what key value was being delivered to potential members.

4. The brand wasn’t enticing except to canoeists.

5. Debatable whether the brand should have been UK, GB, British, or something else.

Renaming the organisation

A new name would go on to inform every other aspect of the new brand, from logo to sub brands to visual identity and a new set of guidelines.

There were a few combinations of options for renaming British Canoeing: Paddle vs Paddlesport and UK vs GB vs British.

We undertook extensive research and discussion and came to what we thought was the best overall conclusion: Paddle UK.

Deciding factors included sense checking, SEO, discussions with the stakeholder group, and contemporary research, among others.

Logo & colour options

We experimented with many different colour and logo combinations. The brand needed a more modern palette which honoured its heritage and NGB status.

The brand logo was simplified. The original was too busy and had to be explained to be understood, but the new one is much cleaner. All activities use a paddle, so this worked as a unifying symbol. The slightly italicised font and the placement of the paddle shaft implies the speed and energy of the competitive side of the organisation.

We went for a more modern combination of blues to represent the water on which all paddle activities take place. A red, white and blue secondary palette was created to be used for promoting athletes and teams when representing Great Britain internationally.

Visual identity & deliverables

Once we had the logo in place, we used its elements as a visual motif throughout a range of communication examples.

We also expanded the colour palette so that secondary hues could be used to represent parts of the business. With consistent colour coding we were able to guide people through a complex brand structure.

The photography style was authentic. We wanted to capture real moments which represent the many activities on the water. The intention was to visually inspire, inform, and include everyone who wanted to get into paddling. We recommended original, high-quality images wherever possible. When using stock photography, the images would be natural; not posed, forced, or cheesy.

The deliverables included a comprehensive set of brand guidelines and tone of voice document. We also produced a set of merchandise for the launch, enabling the Paddle UK co-workers to feel inspired and energised by the change.

The clients were happy with the rebrand, with the simplified brand structure open to the entire breadth of paddlers, from a first-time paddler all the way to a gold-medal World champion. The brand is now fully inclusive and reflective of its evolving membership.

“The new name captures more fully the breadth of paddler activity that falls under our responsibility. All of our members paddle, but not everyone does the sport. So Paddle UK aims to be representative and inclusive of all paddle activities and sports.”

Professor John Coyne CBE, Chair of Paddle UK

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