Furious fans target design agency with negative reviews amid backlash at Team GB’s ‘woke’ pink and purple Union Jack rebrand

Furious fans target design agency with negative reviews amid backlash at Team GB’s ‘woke’ pink and purple Union Jack rebrand

Angry sports fans have hammered a design agency behind Team GB‘s pink and purple Union Jack rebrand with a wave of negative reviews online.

Critics have laid into Bath-based design and marketing firm Thisaway in a backlash over the new merchandise they have created ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The company’s average rating from Google reviews has dropped to 1.3 out of five as they were accused of ‘defacing’ the Union Jack in the new designs.

The British Olympic Association has insisted Team GB athletes will wear the traditional Union Jack on kits which should be unveiled in the coming weeks.

Thisaway said they wanted to make Team GB’s presentation more ‘inclusive’ as part of BOA-led efforts to attract younger fans from all backgrounds.

Team GB's rebrand of the Union Jack colours has been met with backlash from sports fans

Critics have responded to the row by down-marking Thisaway with Google reviews

Thisaway was founded in 2019 by Graeme Cook (pictured)

The controversy comes after the launch of England’s strip for this year’s football Euros, with an altered version of the St George’s cross on the collar.

Thisaway set up five years ago by Graeme Cook and has worked for clients including Grand National organisers the Jockey Club and England Rugby.

MailOnline has revealed that the men behind the ‘rebranding’ are graphic designers Mr Cook and Adam Cale, graduates of the universities of Salford and Gloucestershire respectively.

Cook is the founder and sole director while Cale is its design director.

Fans first spotted the rebranded design at the World Aquatic Championships in Qatar last month.

Thisaway has now attracted new negative reviews on Google, taking their average score to 1.6 out of five.

One critic posted: ‘How dare you deface the union flag, you should be ashamed of yourselves. RED, WHITE, AND BLUE is the colour, not this multi coloured disgrace.’

Others wrote, ‘Why are you messing with the Union jack flag on the GB uniforms’ and ‘You should be ashamed of yourselves’.

They were also told, ‘Woke woke and woke, this business is anti British’, ‘Don’t mess with the flag’ and ‘Well done for alienating 90% of the nation from your business and team GB’.

Another reviewer posted: ‘Very disappointing that you think you can alter our nation’s flag – leave it be please.’

Team GB Supporters bunting

Team GB Supporters handwaver flag

A Team GB water bottle featuring the new Union Jack rebrand brought out ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics

A football in the new design is also being sold ahead of this summer's Games in France

Bath-based design agency Thisaway has teamed up with the British Olympic Association

But sports fans have slammed the agency online for 'messing with the Union Jack flag'

Previous Thisaway projects have included providing a new badge and branding for Brentford, coinciding with their move to a new stadium in west London.

The firm also came up with the Grand National‘s first standalone branding in 2022, as part of a link-up with race organisers the Jockey Club.

Other clients have included Octopus Energy, Sony and England Rugby.

The agency has said of its Team GB work that the British Olympic Association wanted a new look going into this summer’s Olympics in Paris.

Thisaway said in a statement when unveiling the new designs: ‘Ahead of Paris 2024 and beyond, the BOA were looking to maintain and grow the brand’s profile amongst fans of all ages and backgrounds, strengthen its relationship with sponsors and commercial partners, and make sure it would be fit for today’s modern, digital-first communication landscape.’

The agency said there was a need for the Team GB brand to ‘work harder to drive increased relevance’ outside the Olympics – ‘particularly with younger audiences’. 

Thisaway went on to say: ‘With a simple evolution of the brand’s existing slogan “Believe in Extraordinary”, we’ve moved it away from an athlete-focused rallying call and into an inclusive and inspirational articulation of the new purpose.

‘As with many sport brands, colour was a point of contention. Obviously red, white and blue is synonymous with Great Britain, but it’s far from unique, with other competing nations such as France and USA also sporting the same colours.

‘We needed to find a way of refreshing Team GB’s colour palette in a way that is both flexible and ownable.

‘Rather than trying to look beyond the traditional colours, we decided to embrace them and push the iconic red white and blue as far as we could.

‘The result is a vibrant and varied colour palette that has the versatility to be restrained and traditional in one breath, and bold and contemporary in the next.’

Great Britain's Tom Daley (left) and Matty Lee celebrate winning gold on the third day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan, as they hold a GB flag in the traditional colours

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The agency has said of its Team GB work that the British Olympic Association wanted a new look going into this summer's Olympics in Paris

But critics have included England’s most-capped footballer Peter Shilton, who told The Sun: ‘It feels that nothing is held sacred these days in the UK.

‘Our national flag has been symbolic for many years and should never be changed.’

Malcom Farrow, president of the Flag Institute charity, said: ‘I don’t approve of our national symbol of unity being defaced.

‘People have every right to be upset with Team GB. They need to remember brave men fought for this flag and died while protecting it – changing it is bordering on an insult to them.

‘To do something like this in places like India, Greece or Turkey would have serious consequences.

‘Designs to commemorate special events like previous Olympics have put an approved badge in the centre and kept the flag the same. This is just a marketing gimmick.’

Former British athlete Fatima Whitbread today said she was ‘absolutely disgusted’ by the new merchandise because the Union Jack ‘represents everything that embraces what’s good about our country as years have gone by’.

She told GB News: ‘No way should they have just gone ahead and changed the country’s symbolic colours. It is about national pride and unity.

‘Red, white, and blue – it has been that for 223 years, so why change it? Why is there a need to change it just because of other countries?

‘Our forefathers went to war for us and fought for all the different things that we stand for now, that shouldn’t just be wiped out either. A Union Jack is what it’s all about for me – and it should be for those younger ones.’

Reform Party president Nigel Farage today posted on X, formerly Twitter: ‘This is a step too far. Total woke madness that must be reversed.’

And Prime Minister Rishi Sunak today repeated a warning that sports kit manufacturers ‘shouldn’t mess’ with national flags amid the controversy.

Asked about the new Team GB merchandise, a Number 10 spokeswoman told reporters today: ‘I’ve not spoken to him about the specific Team GB kit.

He was asked previously about kit and he said his general view is that when it comes to our national flags we shouldn’t mess with them. They are a source of pride, identity, who we are and he thinks they are perfect as they are.

‘As he said at the time, in relation to the Euros kit, the PM is responsible for many things but the Euros kit and the Team GB kit aren’t one.’

But Team GB says it has received ‘very positive’ feedback from members of the public regarding the rebrand.

Fans spotted the rebranded design at the World Aquatic Championships in Qatar last month

FA and Nike were forced to defend their changes to the St George's cross on England's shirt

England captain Harry Kane, here pictured wearing the new home shirt

The Team GB ‘Supporters Flag’ is available for £12 while the bunting is £13 and T-shirts are £26.50.

MailOnline understands that the ‘brand refresh’ is restricted to merchandise and will not stretch to the kit, designed by Adidas and Team GB, which will be worn by athletes competing in the games, which will carry the ‘traditional Union Flag’ on the arm.

The new kit for Paris 2024 will be released later this month.

A Team GB spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘All Team GB athletes will wear the Union Jack as normal in Paris.’

Mr Cale said on his LinkedIn page about the rebrand, which appears to apply to towels, flags, pennants and water bottles: ‘I’m super excited to see this one out in the world.

‘It’s been a dream to work on such a beloved brand with a great brief, an amazing client-side team and some very talented collaborators.

‘Huge props to all involved – this is definitely one I’m very proud of.’

Supporters of the new look have pointed out that predominantly-blue new versions of the Union Jack were featured in the Team GB kit designed by Stella McCartney for the 2012 Olympics staged in London. 

The fashion designer responded to criticism at the time by posting online: ‘I see many feel as strongly about the Union flag as I do! The design actually uses more red & shows more flag than any Team GB kit since ’84.’ 

The Football Association and Nike have recently forced to defend their changes to the St George’s cross on the England team’s newly-unveiled shirt.

Nike described the navy, light blue and purple colours as a ‘playful update’ on the nation’s flag.

They insisted the changed kit was not virtue-signalling but instead a nod to the 1966 World Cup winners and their training gear’s colours.

But Mail Sport columnist Simon Jordan said: ‘No other country would allow this to happen.

‘They wouldn’t allow it to be done on their national shirt. This is the same Nike who couldn’t even be bothered to produce Mary Earps (Lionesses keeper) shirts.

‘I don’t think we should be taking lessons from Nike on the values of this country. And the FA are absolutely complicit. The FA will have their virtue-signalling fingers all over this.

‘I don’t quite understand why Nike want to have a ‘playful’ brief on our identity. I don’t understand why we would want to do this. Is our national identity a joke, is it something we’re ashamed of?

‘Our national identity is something we should be proud of. I don’t find this offensive. I find it unnecessary.’

Fellow Mail Sport columnist and former England striker Chris Sutton described the design as a ‘load of b******s’ on our It’s All Kicking Off podcast.

England's teams are set to benefit from technology developed in the Nike Sport Research Lab which has been implemented into the new playing jerseys

Sutton labelled the new shirts a 'massive cock-up' and likened the design process to something out of The Apprentice

Jordan said he 'could not understand why Nike wanted a

The kit designer revealed that the update to the St Georges cross was to 'unite and inspire'

England's alternate strip is said to take inspiration from kits of the past and boasts a purple colourway

Nike say the new kit designs are a nod to the Three Lions' 1966 World Cup winning side

He said: ‘To unite and inspire? By changing a flag? It’s like The Apprentice when Lord Sugar sends them out to do tasks. It looks like a massive c**k-up. What are they thinking? 

‘I’m not going to get angry, it’s a kit design. But I do understand there will be a lot of people around the country who are going to say it doesn’t represent England and shouldn’t represent England. It’s stupid. It’s dumb.’ 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also waded into the debate, saying: ‘The flag’s unifying, it doesn’t need to change. We just need to be proud of it. So I think they should just reconsider this and change it back.’

MailOnline has approached Thisaway for comment on the new Team GB design. 


Aidan Radnedge

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