Chris David Garcia, the director of creative services for the Major League Baseball World Series champion Houston Astros, was warned that winning the title would create a workload level unrivaled in his previous years with the team.
But he was okay with the added strain. “We throw the phrase around, we have ‘championship problems,’” he says. “Who doesn’t want to have those?”
Winning the 2017 World Series changed everything, he says, nearly doubling the off-season workload before the spring start of the 2018 season. Everything from redoing work already finished to reflect the past season’s accomplishment to creating new assets and messages during the offseason filled an already shortened timeframe with the World Series pushing into October.
Garcia says his team created tag lines, logos, wordmarks and more to capitalize on the title. Using the championship trophy and the World Series champions logo offered key assets worth incorporating. The team even redesigned 2018 special-edition uniforms to work in gold. “There are some things that happen in real time, but some things the league does a good job of giving you a roadmap to prepare for,” he says. “We are strategizing on our end and getting that core message out in every platform we can.”
The Astros’ creative department represents a “growing team,” Garcia says, one that has added to its staff every year for the last five. With more talent comes more projects. And more projects staying in-house. While the ad campaigns that kick off a season were once generated by an outside agency, that project now lives in-house. As did the magical postseason run.
When it comes time to create the campaign for the new season, Garcia calls that strategy “precious,” a project not to take lightly. “It is something you have to be careful with,” he says. “It has to be authentic. We are living in an age where everyone smells what you are feeding them if it is not right.”
The creative team went into the clubhouse to listen to players and leadership. The main message was the World Series win was phenomenal, but the team needed to turn a new page and get to work. “We were able to take their messages and add some beauty to it and share it to the market,” Garcia says. Now, with an authentic message straight from the team, the creative group has their campaign backed up authentically every day by the players in media interviews, and all without prepping talking points.
To push forward the concept, Garcia says photography offers an essential language. “If we are talking about never settling, we are looking for a certain type of emotion,” he says. “Maybe it is emotion after a play, emotion that happened after the game. For us, photography is essentially that language to craft the message.” If they want to quantify the message of games being earned, they will look for grit photography of dirt on a uniform or emotion directed toward others. The rest of the design follows that key photography aesthetic. “We are providing energy and textures that are rich and vibrant,” he says, “building off last year from a photography and design perspective.”
The Astros look to leverage every avenue possible, with Instagram a place for the photography to shine. The team has more fun and emotion—and adds more messaging—when on Twitter. Facebook serves as an actionable location where the team asks fans to click on a link or watch a video.
As Garcia and his team grow, he says research proves vital. Keeping almost everything produced in-house, they need to always see what the world of design offers, create new ideas and be willing to go beyond sport and communicate differently.
With the 2017 and 2018 years already busy with the team designing new content around the opening of a spring-training facility and creating a new team identity for a minor league club, a 12-month project that included logo creation, sub logos, type, mascot, business identity, wayfinding and more, Garcia says it showed the organization’s owners the value of the creative team. “That is one that was important to take in and gain trust from the executive team and prove value to the bottom line,” he says, “which is something hard to do in sports design.”
That growth has also added more Astros-focused projects, such as traveling to spring training to capture content and video from players, an effort that builds player trust and access, but also creates seven months of usable content. Heading to spring training, though, “requires travel, budget, more trust and adds more to the plate that requires a lot of planning,” Garcia says.
With so much going on, Garcia knows his growing creative team can handle it. The issues, after all, are just championship problems.
Direction: Chris David Garcia
Artwork: Alex Grigas, Roxy Dominguez, Joe Smaldone
Photo: Alex Bierens de Haan, Sam Hodde
Tim Newcomb covers sports design for HOW. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.
- Meghan Newell, senior art director at Lyft
- Mike Rice, creative director at Amazon, former senior creative director at Whole Foods, former global design director at PepsiCo, former global creative director at P&G
- Viet Huynh, communication designer at Slack
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