Somewhere in Los Angeles, a team of Kraken insiders sat in a room staring at an ice-blue “S.” Then billionaire businessman and majority owner David Bonderman got up, pointed to the crook of the angular letter on the screen, and said something like: “I think we should try an eye there.”
“And now I look at [the logo] and I can’t imagine it without the eye,” says the team’s current VP of Marketing, Katie Townsend, who passed on the now-legendary story.
Our brand-new hockey team started out with over 1,000 possible names: the Seattle Sockeyes, the Seattle Rainiers, the Seattle Emeralds. Just over a year ago, fans had no official moniker to hold onto. Now, 36 players are ready to suit up in midnight and ice blue jerseys and hit the rink.
Since Seattle was awarded the NHL’s 32nd franchise in 2018, marketing experts have been working behind the scenes, talking to locals, polling over 200,000 future fans, and building a brand players and Seattleites alike can be proud of.
The official Kraken brand book is dotted with quotes that establish the mood of even the smallest branding decision. “Fear the creature that dwells in the darkest depths, the ice-shackled kraken, that threatens to surface and your soul to keep,” reads a quote from Erna Grcic’s poetry collection, Beneath the Surface. From biologist E.O. Wilson: “In our hearts, we hope we don’t discover everything.” The Kraken, it's clear, "is an invisible, immutable force,” mysterious and all the more perilous in that it is never fully revealed—just hinted at, a single tentacle rising from below. (Always, always from below.)
Those quotes lead into a bevy of rules marketers must keep in mind. The Kraken, if released, should never be depicted humorously or cartoonishly. It never attacks its home turf (thank god). Irreverence is encouraged—see the team’s pre–expansion draft Twitter bio: “now that we have a name, we’re strategizing all the ways to draft your favorite player.” What should you call a Kraken fan? “We are not Pirates or Vikings (although the Kraken would happily eat them).” On the record, we’re Kraken, too.
The devil, after all, is in the details. Those red accent stripes on the jersey? They’re there to represent the livery stripe on the bottom of some ferries—and they’re there because general manager Ron Francis was in on design meetings, and he wanted to make sure the stripes didn’t cut the players off. “He wants his players to look as big as possible on the ice,” Townsend explains. The secondary logo anchor contains a subtle nod to the Space Needle. Kraken blues align with the maritime colorways of the Seahawks, Mariners, and Sounders. Each element of the team’s appearance received careful consideration, from the beveling on the “S”—a reference to boats, and Seattle’s seafaring spirit—to the letter itself, a callback to Seattle’s original Metropolitans hockey team.
All that thought means the Kraken will look damn fine on and off the ice. But don't take our biased word for it. Despite an abysmal last-place ranking in an early Sports Illustrated analysis of some of Seattle’s prospective names (we’ve been there, too), reactions to the brand reveal have been remarkably positive. ESPN staff writer Arda Ocal gave the logo a nine out of 10—“a big fat W.” Hockey writer Mike Luciano said the Kraken “aced the design.” As Zone Coverage reporter Giles Ferrell writes, “once we got a glimpse of what they had held out on us, oh boy, was it ever so good.”