“Right by the fans”: DixonBaxi’s fan-focused identity for TNT Sports

In a bid to differentiate TNT Sports from other broadcasters, DixonBaxi designed collage-style “fandents” and expanded the role of the on-screen clock.

From fashion-led kit designs to celebratory musical moments, the current era of sport is weaving itself into the tapestry of wider cultural trends. BT Sport’s transition to TNT Sports looks to embrace this shift, communicating with viewers in a way that’s “more akin with fashion and apparel” brands, says DixonBaxi creative director Harry Ead.

TNT Sports is a joint venture between the BT Sport team, Warner Bros Discovery and Eurosport (owned by Warner Bros). DixonBaxi has previously worked with all three brands, from BT Sport’s last rebrand in 2016, to HBO Max earlier this year. Since TNT already existed, predominantly in America, DixonBaxi’s was challenged to make it relevant for a UK market.

Ead says the studio noticed the “homogenisation” across other UK sports broadcasters, which all focused on “the epic winning goal, the trophy lift and the pundit’s opinion”. DixonBaxi sought to “disrupt the status quo” with a strategy defined by the strapline “right by the fans”, encouraging the design team and the client to think about sport in “a broader sense”, he adds.

Introducing “fandents”

To avoid the “super slick” look and feel typical of the sector, Ead explains how the design team turned away from their screens and first created a “fanzine” of collaged imagery taped together. He describes it as “rough and ready but very real” and, from this, the studio developed “fandents” in that same collage style.

DixonBaxi visited ten locations over two weeks, capturing photography of the journey to an event, “tactile” close ups and everything in-between, according to Ead. Photography ranges from shots of the Champions League semi-final in Manchester, Premier League games and rugby tournaments, to grassroots events like tournaments at Barking Rugby Club, matches at Bloomsbury Women’s Football Club and the National League Final.

The collaged imagery appears in “photo-burst moments in a low-frame-rate animation style” similar to boomerangs on social media, says Ead. The corresponding sound for the fandents also uses a collage style, combining field recordings and sounds from fans. Fandents will appear in commercial breaks, punctuating the start and end of the adverts.

“Punctuations of editorial style”

The clock – which appears in the corner of the screen tracking minutes and goals during games – has an additional role in the TNT Sports identity. DixonBaxi has employed it as a “data centre”, opening up to disclose details of the game as well as players, which the studio claims is a first for sports broadcasting. Team colours can be applied to the clock to “localise” it to each game, while the typefaces can momentarily change from a sans to serif, jumping out of the screen in “a flourish moment” when there is a goal, says Ead.

The broadcaster uses a combination of two custom fonts – TNT Sports sans and TNT Sports serif – developed with type foundry F37. The serif typeface looks to add “punctuations of editorial style” to the identity, says DixonBaxi designer Charlie Greenslade, describing its “beautiful curves and sharp edges” that seek to capture TNT’s “attitude” while retaining legibility in smaller applications.

DixonBaxi devised a language system where two words can be paired together, with the “N” from the logo appearing as a colloquial “and” between them. Words sometimes appear juxtaposed using different typefaces, such as tiers ‘n’ tears, with the two Ts from the logo acting as a “holding device” sitting either side of the phrase, says Greenslade. The broader glyph system includes a V (for versus) and a plus symbol.

“The viewfinder”

Ead further explains how the graphic T element “drives the brand”, revealing information and appearing “bold and attitudinal” or “super refined and technical”. It is described as “the viewfinder” in the identity, adapting in weight and size to add depth, magnify, “flip perspectives” or put players head-to-head, he adds. The T also serves as a pattern for kits and merchandise and looks like pitch markings or goal posts in some instances.

The “viewfinder” is also employed in the UI system, which is inspired by the “gestural movements” of AR, says Greenslade. The new UI landscape aims to give viewers a better understanding of teams and their stats. Examples include the navigation bar on the walk-through of the team and the fixture list, which aim to “fully immerse fans in match data”, says Greenslade.

TNT Sports’ primary “neon magenta” hue seeks to break away from the “heavy blues” that define other sports broadcaster identities, says Ead, though it can occasionally be switched out for team or colours to tie in with events.

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