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Updated: April 29, 2024

Portland pro soccer team unveils name and branding, starts selling merch

Soccer fan with merchandise Photo / Courtesy Portland Hearts of Pine The first pro soccer team in Maine will play as the Portland Hearts of Pine, as revealed at a large fan gathering on Saturday.

Inspired by Maine traditions and symbols, the state’s first pro soccer team will begin play next year as the Portland Hearts of Pine.

The team name, crest and colors were unveiled before more than 1,000 fans gathered at Thompson’s Point on Saturday, which Gov. Janet Mills proclaimed as the first-ever Maine Day of Soccer.

The team has been launched by Gabe Hoffman-Johnson in partnership with Redfern Properties owners — and Mainebiz Business Leaders of the Year honorees — Jonathan and Catherine Culley. Under a recently hired president and chief business officer, former DraftKings executive Kevin Schohl, the team will play in the men's USL League One.

The club crest features an iconic Maine pine tree set against deep blue waves, next to a red heart intended as a take on Maine’s Dirigo Star but in homage to Portland’s Valentine’s Day Bandit.

Using public input from dozens of focus groups, town halls and other events, Hoffman-Johnson teamed up with soccer marketing expert Burke Cherrie and graphic designer Hugh McCormick to create the branding.

Man with microphone
Photo / Courtesy Portland Hearts of Pine
Gabe Hoffman-Johnson

“Across all corners of the state, what we heard from every community was just how proud they are to be a Mainer, and especially how much love they have for our state’s natural beauty,” Hoffman-Johnson said. "That’s what links us all, it’s our heritage, and those are the symbols we leaned into to represent this club.”
In addition to the representations of Maine’s natural beauty and the club’s heart symbol, the team found further inspiration in history and tradition. The custom typography is based on the historic Portland Co. building on Portland’s East End, and the scroll celebrates Maine’s literary contributions. 

The Hearts name also draws upon global soccer traditions, shared by clubs such as Heart of Midlothian F.C. in Scotland and Accra Hearts of Oak S.C. in Ghana. The club motto is “Lead with Your Heart," offering a new spin on Maine’s motto “Dirigo,” meaning “‘I lead”  in Latin.

The team is already selling branded merchandise including $25 T-shirts, and $55 hoodies, and taking season ticket deposits for $25 apiece on its website. Team tryouts will be held the fall, and the first game will take place at Fitzpatrick Stadium in spring 2025.

The team is also staffing up. It recently hired Hannah Sirois, formerly of the Maine Celtics, as director of operations, and Brian Wold, formerly of Sabre Yachts, as vice president of marketing.

Brand 'a bit busy'

Marketing experts gave mostly positive reviews to the new brand.

“I am a big fan of 'Hearts,'" Brian Corcoran, founder and chief engagement officer of Shamrock Sports & Entertainment, told Mainebiz, "but the brand is a bit busy.”

However, he said he applauds the team’s efforts to differentiate itself from other “footie” clubs with FC or United in their name and predicts that fans will adopt a short and sweet one-word nickname for the new team.

“Mine is simply ‘Hearts,” he said, “as I am confident this team will deliver Mainers with priceless experiences and memories for fans of all ages.”

Nancy Marshall of public relations firm Marshall Communications said she believes that the community will grow around the brand name, “with the raving fans telling the legendary story of the beloved Valentine’s Day Bandit, Kevin Fahrman," who died in 2023.

“Imagine what people felt about the name Google when it was born, or even the person named Albert Einstein. Brands sometimes grow into their names,” she told Mainebiz. "I can imagine hearing the enthusiastic chant: Hearts. Of. Pine. Hearts. Of. Pine. Hearts. Of. Pine.”

While there's been no mention of a possible mascot, Corcoran said he doesn't believe one is needed.

"The loud and proud fans will be the colorful faces behind this franchise," he said. "Bring your face paint!"

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