Excel Esports CEO Wouter Sleijffers reveals need for new logo and focus

Adam Fitch
Wouter Sleijffers Excel Esports Rebrand

Excel Esports are a leading British esports organization and they’ve just changed their logo for the second time in as many years, returning to an instantly-recognizable “XL” marking.

In January 2019 they were accepted as one of 10 long-term teams in the LEC — the premier European League of Legends competition — and they unveiled a new logo to signal a new era.

November 12’s brand refresh is another indication that Excel Esports are entering their next iteration, though this is to be expected for eagle-eyed fans considering the org have overhauled their leadership team over the past year.

From narrowly missing out on making the playoffs in the LEC 2020 Summer Split to signing 16-year-old Fortnite star Jaden ‘Wolfiez’ Ashman, they have grown from strength to strength since the updated brand was introduced but they’re not slowing down just yet.

Excel Esports Rebrand Wolfiez
Wolfiez is a Fortnite champion that represents Excel Esports.

Now, Excel Esports are looking to become more than the “over-used ‘lifestyle’ esports brand” by “carving a new unique path” that prioritizes performance and purpose. Steering by a new slogan of ‘The Power of Better,’ the organization have a clear vision for the next few years.

Dexerto spoke with Wouter Sleijffers, who leads the org having previously served as the CEO of their domestic rival Fnatic, to get direct insight into their new logo and ethos, why the change was necessary, and what fans can expect moving forward.

A fresh lick of paint

Branding is a huge component of any company, providing a recognizable face for fans, and setting a precedent with potential clients as to what they can expect. Changing a visual identity isn’t a light decision for this reason, especially as a misstep could severely damage the future perception of your brand.

With this being Excel’s second logo change in under two years, they must have deemed it necessary for the future of the organization.

“I’m not worried to the point where it gives me sleepless nights but I’m very conscious that it’s a second update,” Sleijffers told Dexerto. “Esports and gaming are moving fast, it’s inherent that we need to adapt and evolve. I don’t like the word ‘esports’ because people make too many references to sports, with Liverpool having a 120-year-old logo and such. That’s not us.

“We care what our fans think about it but we also need to believe in what we’re doing and our future. The worst thing that can happen is people don’t give a sh*t and no doubt people will have varying opinions about this — I don’t expect everyone to immediately love it, but it’s our job to show what it’s all about.”

Excel Esports Old and New Logo
Pictured: the old logo (left) and the new logo (right).

It’s imperative for the team to show that they’re not changing entirely, instead just upgrading to give fans, potential supporters, and sponsors a better experience moving forward. The former Fnatic CEO is aware of this, but they drilled down to the very essence of what Excel as a brand is, what it stands for, and where he wants it to go.

“We’re still Excel, though we did even get to the point where we discussed whether we should still call ourselves Excel because of the spreadsheet program,” he explained. “We concluded that we are Excel, this is our world, and we’re confident about who we are. Excel has had an amazing journey in such a short time but we can’t be complacent, we still have a long way to go to reach the top. This is the first step in the next part of our journey.”

Why is now the perfect time for Excel to change their logo again? Since changing things up in January 2019, they’ve shown growth in League of Legends, made a landmark signing with Wolfiez, expanded their team, and secured an impressive partner in British telecommunications company BT. The operation behind Excel has changed dramatically in a short space of time and there’s further growth on the horizon.

“We started talking about the next evolution of the Excel brand at the time of [myself and CCO Robin McCammon joining in January 2020],” he said. “We dug in deep, I didn’t want to be just like Fnatic or FaZe Clan for example, we built it from the ground up and continued to build upon what drove Kieran and Joel [Holmes-Darby] to start Excel in the first place.”

The power of better

Driven by a clear mantra, Excel now have a clear purpose driving them — if they didn’t before. Nailing down exactly what drives those that are behind the company, as well are the players that represent them on the big stages, will theoretically help them fulfill their “commitment to improve” and use their “platform to have a positive impact on the wider gaming and esports community,” as per a press release.

Excel Esports Rebrand Wolfiez
Wolfiez is the sole competitor for Excel in popular battle royale Fortnite.

So, what exactly does the CEO believe will change from here on out?

“We want to do really well in the games we compete in, that’s not a change in ambition but there’s a lot of work going into that,” he said. “They are great ideas but this is about execution, it’s about how well we’re going to do what we want to do for ourselves, our fans, and our talent. We’re letting go of what we see in sports — maybe at one stage esports took too many people from other industries — because this is gaming, there’s a lot of things I’ve questioned.

“This is also about coming up with a more interesting commercial proposition for brand partners like BT. Identity isn’t about updating the logo, it’s about building our DNA and that’s what we’re doing here.”

British brand with international ambitions

Co-founder and current chief gaming officer Kieran Holmes-Darby said around the time of their last rebrand that they have always been considered, and embraced, as the “plucky British underdog.” Is this still the case? With esports being a digital-first industry, that’s an irrefutable opportunity to access every major region on a global scale and keeping ambitions local could also be interpreted as intentionally limiting your potential fan base.

“We’ve gone from a UK esports organization to a British competitive gaming culture brand, there’s a ton of difference here,” explained Sleijffers. “The United Kingdom is a country with geographical borders, I see Britain from a cultural perspective.

“It’s amazing that Excel is based in Britain because it’s Britain is one of those few countries that has a big export industry from a cultural perspective. We don’t know what that is for gaming because nobody has done it yet. We want to define that culture, I can’t tell you what it’ll look like but it’s going to happen. Hopefully, we can be the voice of the British gaming and esports community across borders.”

Considering this refresh is considered the first step in a whole bevy of advancements for Excel, fans can expect plenty more announcements to come from the organization in the coming weeks and months. For now, the jury is out as to whether existing fans will embrace the new identity of their favorite team.