Rodney Richardson has been telling stories for several decades – just not in the traditional way.
The founder of RARE Designs, a Mississippi-based brand-building firm, Richardson and his team have designed innovative logos since 1999 for clients ranging from professional and collegiate sports franchises to civic and government organizations to companies with worldwide reach.
“A logo is the face of a brand,” Richardson said. “And because we see branding as an opportunity for storytelling — and people always love a good story — a logo becomes one of the primary storytellers for that brand.
“It gives people something to sink their teeth into rather than just having a trendy logo for the sake of chasing trends. Trends are great, but logos have a purpose, and we find that when they fulfill that purpose, they resonate with fans and audiences.”
In RARE’s latest project, Richardson had the challenge of both rebuilding a brand for a hungry and passionate fanbase and reintroducing a sports and entertainment facility to a growing community.
Nashville Superspeedway’s rebirth has already energized Middle Tennessee’s sports and live events landscape. For the first time in more than three decades, America’s best drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series are racing in Music City as part of a historic weekend of racing June 18-20 – Father’s Day Weekend 2021.
Part of embarking on a new era at NASCAR’s largest concrete track is building the personnel, marketing and design infrastructure to usher Nashville Superspeedway’s campus toward its goal of hosting hundreds of live events and activities per year and link its image with quality entertainment, thrilling races and memorable happenings.
First among those goals was creating a new branding campaign that brought together an array of qualities which makes Nashville special.
“We wanted to combine the city’s history as a musical Mecca with the traditional feel of racetrack sights and sounds,” said Gary Camp, Nashville Superspeedway’s assistant vice president for marketing and communications.
“NASCAR fans aren’t shy about displaying their home tracks on hats, shirts and other apparel. When our fans represent Nashville Superspeedway, we wanted our logo to be traditional, stylish and recognizable at the same time.”
Enter RARE Designs, which was familiar with both Nashville (through a project with the city’s Triple-A baseball team) and NASCAR from a recent rebranding campaign.
“We had already spent a lot of time researching Nashville and getting a feel for the city,” Richardson said. “We know the symbols and icons that resonate in Nashville and why, and we know what does and doesn’t work in the racing world.”
If it’s possible, Richardson feels that goal is even more critical for a sports franchise/venue.
“There’s no other realm we work within where the audiences we’re trying to connect with feel as passionate about these brands and logos than the sports world,” Richardson said. “Thousands upon thousands of people have a personal vested interest in these marks.”
Among RARE’s sports brand successes are the logos of the NFL’s Houston Texans and the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, both of which are nearing two decades of use, as well as the more recent brand launches for the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and Sacramento Kings. Richardson recalls fans in Sacramento “were so excited about it that they were lined up around the block to get tattoos of the different logos.”
It’s easy to find that passion within NASCAR’s fans as well, whether it’s the rolling RV caravan that follows the circuit from coast to coast to the driver flags and other merchandise that diehards proudly display at the track, in their homes and on their vehicles.
“What’s special about a track is that you have the unique aspects and personality of the individual track, including the city of region where it is, to represent, but you also have the intensity and excitement of racing to consider and include,” Richardson said.
With dozens of concepts designed and discussed, the ultimate selections feature the track’s 1.33-mile layout, a guitar headstock and tuning keys as an homage to Nashville’s musical heritage and the traditional Tennessee tri-star, recognizing the Superspeedway’s goal of being the home track for millions of Volunteer State residents.
“We are thrilled with the results that RARE Designs produced for our primary and secondary logos,” said Nashville Superspeedway President Erik Moses. “They blend all the aspects of racing, the track and the Middle Tennessee community we were seeking. I can’t wait to see all of our fans wearing Nashville Superspeedway hats, shirts and representing THEIR track during our Father’s Day Weekend of racing in June.”
Richardson says a “modern vintage” look featuring “Music City Muscle” is the universal aspect of the new Nashville logos.
“That mindset really drove all aspects of this project,” Richardson said. “Nashville is booming right now, but it still has a special Southern charm — a Southern rock charm, to be more precise.
“You can see the modern vintage influence throughout the system — in the rounded, soft edges of the guitar headstock, the spurs in the NSS font, and the badge-style lockup we used, which references the badges and patches that come natural to the racing world.
“All of this is designed with 21st century needs in mind. We really tried to capture the spirit of Nashville and the excitement of the events that will take place at Nashville Superspeedway in this project, and the style of the brand is a huge part of that.”
These logos are featured on a merchandise collection now available for purchase. VISIT HERE to browse through the Nashville Superspeedway merch shop.