Rebranding an NFL Team, Twice.
- Our work with Washington's pro football franchise started at the very beginning of their rebranding journey, as we navigated the challenging transition away from their original moniker.
- In the summer of 2020, the team's ownership finally decided to rethink their entire identity and partner with Code and Theory on an interim brand: Washington Football Team. With all the uncertainty swirling around the team, this name focused on unity within Washington, and leaned into our campaign messaging, 'No Name but Team.'
- Beginning the following year, we kicked off a new name and full transformation to a more permanent title – a journey that resulted in the powerful, resounding team we know today: the Washington Commanders.
Building the most inclusive sports team brand – ever.
In 2020, we called for change, kneeled for change, marched for change. And for Washington D.C.’s NFL team, a nearly 100-year-old institution, change was necessary. That summer, we hurtled change forward by helping the franchise move past their racially insensitive name to establish a streamlined new identity.
As the NFL’s 2020 season fast approached, we created a new name and identity for the team. In the spirit of a fresh start, it was stripped of artifice and felt simple and honest: Washington Football Team. In a sea of team symbols, it felt right to lean into the idea of “team” and to relish what matters.
To make the name make sense to the world, we unleashed an integrated campaign called NO NAME BUT TEAM. Our message was a rallying cry centered on the unequivocal word that expressed the city, sport, and brotherhood. The campaign gave every player a voice—a principle of inclusion that would prime us all for an even bigger journey to come.
A New Identity
Change is hard, but audiences began to embrace the new identity and support the team through two seasons. This granted us time to arrive at a permanent name and identity in the way we knew it deserved. When we were tasked to finish what we had started, we embarked on a thoughtful and fully inclusive process. The sense of belonging, inclusion, and identity that was so central to ‘Washington Football Team’ would become a crucial part of the path forward for the franchise.
Before anything else, we cleared space for varied perspectives and nuanced conversations. We listened, learned, asked, answered and drew insights from a chorus of voices that often go unheard during a sports team rebrand: fans, coaches, players, community leaders, Indigenous activists, and icons who represent the spirit of the city and the capital. This process started to reveal a cohesive, powerful picture of what this NFL brand could be. And with care, we began to build.
Inside Code and Theory, we gathered a diversity of expertise, experience, cultural identity and football fluency. Right away, this group set out to establish transparency with the world. We built a site that let supporters undertake the effort with us, from the team’s epic history to the mission for inclusivity. Through that site, fans submitted nearly 40K names, logo sketches, uniforms and more.
We reviewed every single fan submission against the learnings we’d convened thus far—and sought even more. We workshopped specific elements of the brand with carefully assembled groups of players, activists, alumni and community organizers. We held focus groups with the franchise’s many community networks, as well as Indingenous leaders and continually carved a vital role for underheard voices throughout this journey. And they led us to a name that felt unexpected—and most importantly, broadly empowering.
A new team for a new era.
The brand's design required equal consideration and depth of exploration. We needed to impart pride in the storied franchise, historic city and a fanbase that—based on the reams of submissions—would assess the visual identity with conviction.
The wordmark stands tall, with proud letterforms, while the trio of uniforms project power and newfound control. Burgundy and gold feel richer and deeper, carrying through like a bloodline. A bold W remains, as a tribute to the brand we’ve been and the city we are, now stamped on the sides of helmets like armor. The seal contains every pinnacle year, showing that where we’ve been has led us to exactly where we stand. Now we COMMAND. We command unity, command respect and command the future—together.
A name that speaks to the power and influence of our capital while forging new, inclusive ideas about how we can command unity, command respect, and command the future — together.