CREATING CHANGE

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A Retrospective of Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik HC’s Rebranding Process and Interview with Elena Mineicheva (Designer at NEFTEKHIM MEDIA)

The 17th of December 2018 will be a landmark day in the history of Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik Hockey Club. It will be the 100th time that the team plays wearing the current wolf’s head design on their kit.

In my previous piece entitled Speak of the Wolf and You Will See Its Teeth the General Director of Neftekhimik HC – Rail Yakupov, described at length the decision to rebrand 2 seasons ago.

In an attempt to get a clearer understanding of this revolutionary design change, I interviewed the very person responsible for the symbol that Neftekhimik now wear on their shirts – Elena Mineicheva.

Elena described initial complications in the process:

“We received examples of potential logos at first. After we decided to go with a specific wolf logo, we soon found out that it plagiarised the emblem of an American team. This became known after the Neftekhimik name was added to the logo and certain items with the new logo were already in production.
Everything had to be changed, and quickly.”

Elena stressed just how much pressure she was under because of the sudden time constraints:

“We were told what needed to be done. We were told this at about lunchtime. By the end of the working day we were expected to have a finished design ready. Everything had to be completed within a timeframe of about four hours.”

With her co-designer Svetlana, Elena began creating the iconic design:

“We started with a number of rough pencil sketches. My vision was influenced by Akela from The Jungle Book cartoon. I liked the idea of the dominant alpha male aggression that I remembered about this character.”

It is important to note that we are talking about a Russian animated version of the Jungle Book (simply entitled ‘Mowgli’) and not the Disney feature.

“We were given a few guidelines and requirements. The colours were to include a dark blue, representative of the club’s sponsor, and red – a colour absent from the previous season’s Neftekhimik uniform.”

What was the initial reaction when Ms. Mineicheva saw her work displayed on Neftekhimik’s uniform for the first time during a hockey game?

“It was wonderful. I understood that this was seen by an international audience. Our company’s work is mostly local. Sometimes it goes as far as Kazan, but this was different. This was seen on a global scale.
I can’t take credit for everything. I had help and requests from above to change certain elements or make additions, like the lightning bolts below the wolf’s face, for example. It became a team effort.”

It isn’t uncommon for supporters of a certain sports team to show their support by getting a tattoo of their beloved team’s crest. I asked Elena how she would react if she found out that a Neftekhimik fan did this with her design.

“Knowing that my work was good enough for someone to mark themselves with for life would be daunting but quite pleasant. However, I understand that it’s the symbolism of the club that the design represents, and the club itself in the hearts of the supporters. Nevertheless, I am proud that my efforts have influenced this in some way.”

This influence is, of course, crucial to the team’s current appearance and all the accompanying wolf-faced merchandise that is available.
From fridge magnets to pens, t-shirts, hats, key rings, pin badges, flags, bracelets, posters, pencil cases, bathroom gowns and branded hockey pucks.
All of these items and many more, proudly displaying the symbol and the work of Elena Mineicheva.

Many thanks to this talented designer for sharing her story.

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