Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stern Fixes a Faux pa. Thanks Commish.

Credit to the Commissioner for Fixing the Ball.

Stern admits introduction of new ball was mishandled
-with Permission from the Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Commissioner David Stern acknowledged Tuesday that the NBA should have sought more input from players before introducing its new game ball.

"It's an improvement in many ways," Stern told the New York Times in a story posted on its Web site Tuesday. "But if our players are unhappy with it, we have to analyze to the nth degree the cause of their unhappiness."

Stern said he will address the players' criticisms with Spalding, the ball manufacturer, but some are ready to get rid of it.

"I don't think anybody would complain if they take it away, I'll tell you that," Miami guard Dwyane Wade said. "Hopefully, we'll get back to the other balls."

Heat teammate Antoine Walker said Stern needs to take action.

"Saying and admitting that you're wrong is not good enough," Walker said. "Right now we just need to get back to the old ball. That's what guys are comfortable with and are used to playing with, and what we prefer."

Players have complained about the ball, changed from leather to a microfiber composite, since training camp began. They argue the ball bounces differently than the old one, both off the floor and the rim. The new synthetic material is more sticky when it's dry, but players say it's more slippery when wet -- which the league and Spalding deny.

"Everything is on the table," Stern told the paper. "I'm not pleased, but I'm realistic. We've got to do the right thing here. And, of course, the right thing is to listen to our players. Whether it's a day late or not, we're dealing with this."

The lack of player input about the new ball prompted one of the two unfair labor practice charges the union filed with the National Labor Relations Board late last week.

"I think it's never too late from a league point of view," Seattle guard Ray Allen said. "From a player point of view, at least we know it's not falling on deaf ears. At least it's trying to be handled and worked with."

Some of the league's biggest stars, from Shaquille O'Neal to LeBron James, have been among the most critical of the ball.

"You worry about that ball, and it kind of keeps you from doing what you have to do with it," Suns guard Raja Bell said. "I let that go. But I do think they should have probably asked guys. If you aren't going to ask the whole league, at least ask your superstars, the guys who make you the money."

Stern said he understands why the players feel as they do.

"I won't make a spirited defense with respect to the ball," Stern told the Times. "In hindsight, we could have done a better job.

"With respect to the ball, I take responsibility for that."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Change It.

Players Union Files 2 Suits Against NBA

The players' association filed two unfair labor practice charges Friday against the NBA over issues with the new ball and the league's crackdown on player complaints.

The charges were filed with the National Labor Relations Board.

"I think that's right within the NBA's wheelhouse," Dallas owner Mark Cuban said. "They say the NBA stands for `Nothing But Attorneys,' so we're going to be great at dealing with those issues."

A number of players publicly have complained about changing the ball from leather to a microfiber composite. Although players are adjusting to the new ball, they're having a much harder time with the crackdown on reactions after the whistle, often referred to as a "zero-tolerance policy."

NBA commissioner David Stern enacted the policy, saying players were reacting too strongly after calls, and it has led to an increase in technical fouls called this season.

"It takes away from your natural reaction, the things that make basketball what it is," said Jerry Stackhouse, the Mavericks' player representative. "You think Bill Bradley never hit the support after he was called for a foul? That's the model citizen of all former NBA players. It's just a natural thing to do."

With players fined for each technical they receive, union director Billy Hunter told The Associated Press last month that legal action could be the next step if Stern didn't tell the referees to "back off."

There have been 175 unsportsmanlike technicals called through 225 games this season. There were 120 through the same number of games last season, though the number is on par with the amount from two years ago.

"Our obligation to represent our membership dictates the filing of these actions," Hunter said in a statement. "There is virtual unanimity amongst the players about their concerns and intense dislike for the new synthetic ball and the 'zero tolerance' policy.

"After extensive consultation with our membership and player leadership we determined that this was the appropriate course of action."

Some players still seem most upset about the first change to the game ball in more than 35 years.

"Honestly, it gets to a point where, you can change the way our shorts are, you know, you can change if our wristbands are too high, you can change the dress code," LeBron James said. "That's something that's controllable. But when it gets to the point where you change the basketball which, this is what we use every single day. Every single day, every single minute, 82 games. Plus preseason, plus playoffs. It just kind of didn't make sense.

"The only thing that we love the most is the basketball. That's your comfort. I mean, without your basketball, it doesn't work. That was my biggest problem, was, why would you change something that means so much to us? It didn't make sense to me at all."

Added Seattle's Ray Allen, one of the NBA's best shooters: "Every guy I've talked to, to a man, is in disagreement about the ball. The bottom line is we're out there playing and the ball is not going in like we know we're capable of putting it in, or like we've done in the past."

NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said the league was "reviewing what they have filed."

The players feel they were entitled to have input on both changes before they were put into play. In its release, the union said the "zero-tolerance policy" was implemented without any consultation or advanced notice as required "according to the terms of the National Labor Relations Act and the 2005 NBA/NBPA Collective Bargaining Agreement."

"You never want to feel that the NBA's a dictatorship," Wizards veteran Antonio Daniels said.

The section of the CBA regarding On-Court Conduct, states, in part:

"Prior to the date on which any new rule promulgated by the NBA becomes effective, the NBA shall provide notice of such new rule to the Players Association and consult with the Players Association with respect thereto."

The crackdown isn't a new rule, however, but rather a point of emphasis. Under Stern's directive, players are fined $1,000 for each of their first five technicals. The fine increases by $500 for each five after that, capped by a $2,500 penalty for each one starting with the 16th. A one-game suspension also comes at that point and for every other technical thereafter.

"To give a technical foul, it's giving money back," Stackhouse said. "If it's a technical foul, all right, penalize the team. But don't take guys' money for natural reactions toward heat of the moment things. We're not robots. They would say they don't want us to become robots, but that's what it's becoming.

"Everything doesn't have to be we're going to show you by taking your money away. A thousand dollars is a thousand dollars, no matter whether you are making $9 million or $30,000."

Players also argue they weren't involved in the decision to use a new ball. The league unveiled it in June and sent one to its teams and all players before the start of training camp. It also was used in the All-Star game and during summer league play.

Superstars such as Shaquille O'Neal and James are among those who have blasted it, and many others have complained that it feels and performs far differently than the old leather ball, criticizing the way it bounces off the floor and the rim.

"I was surprised when they announced that they were changing the ball," Sacramento's Shareef Abdur-Rahim. "That shouldn't happen without some input from the players. I've never cared for the new ball, and I'm a big guy. When ballhandlers like Steve Nash and Jason Kidd are complaining about it, that says a lot."


Why change the NBA basketball?

You tell me? I would love to hear your thoughts. I really am stumped so I'd like to open it up to the group and hear you ideas and comments.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Why Do Teams Change Their Identity?

I received a terrific e-mail from Pete B. in Toronto who posed the question basically asking why teams change their identity? Okay, great question Pete...

Hi Pete-

PB- I just wanted to say thanks for your columns on sports branding as I find them fascinating and inspirational.

SBS- Thanks for reaching out to us. I greatly appreciate your kind words and interest in our work. We really love this business (usually) and Gameplan Creative provides us a chance to develop identities for clients that help build their brand awareness and business.

PB- As a designer for a sports marketing company up here in Toronto, I’m always trying to seek out new avenues that provoke thought in designing for the big brands (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR).

SBS- Yes, Pete, it’s interesting that a high profile industry like sports marketing and branding has pretty limited resources as it relates to books, materials and case studies on how marketing challenges are turned into strategic solutions. Tells you that a book on the subject might be a very valuable resource right?

PB- What is it that you look for when trying to create and/or design a sense of history of a team brand (ie. The legends of the Chicago Bears, the New York Yankees alumni, Boston Celtics legends)?

SBS- You’ve helped to answer your own question a bit on this one. Yes, digging into archives, fans/league/team web sites and sports branding blogs such as SSUR.org (run by Donovan Moore, the team identity and pantone savant in the industry is an ideal place to begin) or on boards like the Sports Branding Society is a great jump in point.


PB- Does your colour palette change at all from the teams colours or do you add certain colours to reflect history?

SBS- This can be such a long answer and watch how nebulous I can be but...it depends...great answer huh? Really, it does depend.

No, you would not be wise nor being fair to the brand to change the colors of say the Bears (navy blue and orange) , the Yankees (navy blue and grey) or the Celtics (green and now a touch of black). Let me give you some scenarios on how teams go about changing their identities:

-1. New Ownership: (most common/See Anaheim Ducks and Anaheim Angels).
New ownership wants to signal a change at the top. Teams will develop new logos and uniforms and often colors. Does is break a brand identity and tribal chain link. Absolutely and by design.

-2. New Building: (See Phoenix Suns // America West Arena, 1992-93).
There’s an article on the archives on the Sports Branding Society about the Suns. Great way and reason to freshen things up. This is a great case study of moving a team from the 70’s to the new millennium in a change. One of the best identities in my opinion, ever.

-3. Break away from losing tradition: (New Jersey Nets 1995-96) Great change and very successful. New look Nets earned major kudos and the team began winning. Was it the new identity. Of course not. Did it hurt. Absolutely not. Cleveland Cavaliers is a case where the owner who wanted to sell the team, Gordon Gund, wanted a better looking identity before he sold. Like fixing up a house before putting it on sale and thus the wine and gold was re-established...and then along came James.

4. -Make more merchandise money: (Urban legend).
Teams share licensing revenues so if the Yankees changed everything, there would sure to be a spike in the sales of their new products, but since all 30 MLB teams licensing revenues, the Yankees wouldn’t see a dime more.

5. -Tweak the identity: (Celtics ideal case study).

Add colors to the primary, add a secondary logo and add alternate jersey:

Back to the Celtics. In the mid-ninties the team change hands but the tradition of green and the leprechaun was too strong to alter. So, the team tweaked the primary logo, added a Celtics shamrock (in a circle) secondary, and added a touch of black into an alternate uni:

Celtics original logo:

Was changed to this:

And our NBA Creative Services group added this as a secondary logo:

In 2005, the Celtics introduced an alternate jersey (hmmm? Well, we all have our own opinions)

I hope I’m being clear enough and yet not too imposing.

Again, thanks for your interest and I really appreciate your questions. Feel free to stay in touch.

Thanks Pete-


Monday, November 27, 2006

Minor Leaguers Can Look Major League.

Springfield Cardinals Minor League Identity: Polished, Professional, Perfect.

I've been outspoken about the silliness/goofiness/wackiness of minor league baseball team branding. My issue is that minor league marketing executives believe that the success of a minor league logo is all about being "cartoony and quirky". This seems both simplistic and short sighted to me.

While fully understanding Minor League baseball marketing is all about affordable family fun, I am in disagreement that every identity needs to look like a cartoon (or a heavy handed complicated illustration). The following examples are NOT provided to condemn the designers (who are paid to meet team objectives), they are just the providers of the illustrations, not the enablers (the team marketing executives take the blame) of this brand business. And it iseems to be getting sillier every change.

Here's my Top Five Silly Sampling

1. Toledo Mud Hens (I'll take my eggs over easy)

2. Modesto Nuts (Okay, I'll admit you start with a name like Nuts and you're doomed)

Kid: "Hey #8... are you Nuts?"
Player: "Nah kid, I'm just a Nut, okay?"
Kid" Oh, okay, kinda nutty huh?"

3. Lansing LugNuts (You cannot comment on Nuts without commenting on LugNuts...)

Uniform: Yes, it says LUGNUTS..

4. Vermont Lake Monsters (kinda just rolls off your tongue doesn't it?)

I'm sure the state of Vermont is proud of their Lake Monsters? Huh?

5. Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (There is nothing silly or cute about this is there?)

Okay, I'd easily accept Iron Horses in honor of all-time great Lou Gehrig's nickname. But please Iron Pigs?

My point being a large percentage of minor league logos look so minor league that they hurt.

Then, there's the Springfield Cardinals brand identity. Wonderful. Sharp. RELEVANT!

A major league look for a minor league baseball team. This is branding nirvana.

New cap design: http://yhst-19154367504327.stores.yahoo.net/cardinalhat.html
Uniforms: http://www.springfieldcardinals.com/news/?id=8172

How relevant is this minor league identity. Let me delightfully count the ways.

1. The Springfield Cardinals major league affiliation is the St. Louis Cardinals.
2. Springfield Cardinals color scheme: classy and traditonally sharp.
3. High socks with beuatifully striping. Outstandingly cool.

I want to applaud GM Matt Gifford for providing clear concise wonderful evidence minor league teams can look professional, have a personality and tie directly to the MLB pro team.

Hey minor league logo designers take note, do your research, but away the Disney sketch books and create something wonderful.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Best Sports Branding Solution... Ever?

The NHL Expansion Branding of 1967. Simply beautiful.

While holiday shopping at the HawkQuarters (the official retail store of the Chicago Blackhawks) and a must visit if you're in Chicago (http://www.hawkquarters.com), I came across this fairly nondescript hockey cap.


What caught my eye was the simple beauty of the six '67 NHL expansion team logos. I then began wondering if the design of these six teams was my favorite all-time sports branding solution? After writing this blog, it is in fact is my favorite!

I had experience with branding expansion teams both with the 1995 NBA expansion of the Toronto Raptors, the Vancouver Grizzlies, and the 2003 Charlotte Bobcats, I'd been the central driving force of the WNBA league and team branding launch in 1996. But I had to be honest with myself. The six NHL expansion team logos and uniforms were better. One could rationalize that NBA Commissioner Stern and WNBA President Ackerman wanted team and city names (and if possible the WNBA ball) in all the logos, thus making it impossible to create iconographic symbols.

In the 1967-1968 season, the NHL expanded from six teams to 12. These new franchises provided new designs in uniforms, logos, and new colors as well. The traditional "Original 6" colors of red, blue, black and gold color schemes would be passe now with the new teams introducing NHL hockey to the world to orange, green, powder blue, process blue and even that wonderful color purple. Hockey uniforms were a reflection of the times...bright, bold and counter cultural. Terrific!

Upon further reflection, I also realized the designers at the time had struck a terrific balance between the traditional applications of the "Golden Rules" of a hockey sweater (see below) and the classic look of the Original Six of the Bruins, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Canadiens, Rangers and Maple Leafs.



"Thou shalt only use a crest, monogram or diagonal type" Otherwords, no typefonts allowed anywhere at anytime under any circumstance, are you listening Anaheim Ducks??? The NHL if they are anything (and they're not much these days) are about the older cooler looking hockey jerseys. Mr. Bettmann, hasn't enough damage been done to the NHL already... please stop lettering on jerseys already. Hockey's not baseball.


No black or navy blue dominant colors? Yes, the Oakland Seals had a deep shade of green but they made up for that later for sure. This is not today's NHL with an alternate black uniform for EVER team... Mr. Bettmann, please stop the black alts. already


Especially in an expansion season with six new teams, you cannot reinforce player identities enough so numbers on the sleeve (not by the neck Sabres) is critical.

Okay, enough of my pontification. For proof of the best sports branding solution here are the six NHL team identities (logo and uniforms).

1. Los Angeles Kings // Forum blue (purple) and gold (yellow)


2. Minnesota North Stars // Kelly green and yellow


3. Oakland Seals // Forest green, pacific blue and yellow


4. Philadelphia Flyers // Orange and black


5. Pittsburgh Penguins // Powder blue, indigo navy and yellow
http://www.chriscreamer.com/logo.php?lo=268 (even better!)


6. St. Louis Blues // Process blue, yellow.
(Notice how the Blues once used lettering/then remebered the crest rule and dumped them).


In conclusion, the strategy and execution of the NHL's 1967-68 Expansion Six is one of the most visually outstanding and engaging sports branding solutions ever!

The Pro League creative services groups could learn a lot about sports branding by just looking back to see what constitutes a truly great identity solution. Otherwise, they are doomed to repeat the Sabres, Ducks, Thrashers, Stars alts and Blue Jackets alts recent misses.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Chicago 2016 Olympics Logo/Icon Thoughts.

A Chicago Global Sports Icon.

I've been asked by multiple business and social acquaintances my thoughts on the recently unveiled Chicago 2016 Olympics logo. Having developed over 30 global sports logos and event branding campaigns for the NBA, I was curious to see what the city was offering up and on October 12th, our beloved Mayor Daley unveiled the new logo at the Pritzer Pavilion at Millennium Park.

I had a sense of anticipation and pride for what our city would be using as the center point for all visual communications and merchandise for the Games (if we are fortunate enough to land them). I am a big fan of the work that the design firm, VSA Partners does here in Chicago and so the expectations were very high.

When I saw the logo for the first time, it did not resonate with me. And as time has gone on and I've studied it further, I am officially disappointed.

Here's my critique starting with overview of the logo from VSA Partners web site:

"The flame, in the shape of Chicagos' skyline, reflects the international significance of Chicago architecture and speaks to the vitality of a city that rose from the ashes. The body of the torch merges a color palette that represents the blue of Lake Michigan with the vibrant green of the city's park system -- further underscoring Chicago's commitment to the environment and sustainability. Together, these visual elements evoke the spirit of the Olympic Games and its values. It also evokes Chicago's Games concept, to host compact Games celebrated in the center of the city, along the Lake Front and in the city's parks."

Okay, got it. Sounds like solid justification for the development of the mark.

My thoughts-

1. Too tall. Not broadcast friendly. At all. By 2016, when most of the broadcast formats will be HDTV 16 x 9, the logo will need to be cut and sliced to fit the tube.

2. Colors. Not necessarily merchandise friendly. You will not catch me wearing patina and orange together? And unless you're Carmin Miranda, you probably will not either.

Chicago has a great city flag (see below) and it is a great sense of civic pride so why not feature one of both of thosecolors in the icon? Not sure why not either?

3. The color gradation. Very hard to reproduce over the vast array of applications.

4. Torch. Was hoping to see something more original than another torch.

5. The Great Chicago Fire.

... a city that rose from the ashes...

Well yeah, but Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over that lantern 145 years to the year of the '16 Olympics...come on Chicago, let's get over it already.

6. Finally, yes it does it look like the Sears Tower is sitting on a golf tee. Sorry.

Those are my thoughts.

Hopefully, once and if Chicago gets awarded the Games a more open design competition will be incorporated so Chicago has an icon it can truly be proud to call its' own.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sports Pantone Savant And Much Moore.

Donovan Moore Gets Sports Uniform Blogs Right.

Donovan Moore has the best internet site devoted to the study of sports uniform design!

But why should I babble on any longer?



Donovan thanks for allowing long tenured design professionals to speak for the industry we greatly care about.

I applaud your objective stance and integrity on sports logo and uniform design business.

It is very refreshing.

Keep up the great work!


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Garden Gets a New Game

NY Time Article on National League Lacrosse
Featuring Gameplan Creative Founder Tom O'Grady

Published: July 12, 2006
The Attack Apples, anyone? The Slashing Skyscrapers? The Edgy Egg Creams?

For the first time in a decade, New York City is getting a new major league professional sports team, officials said yesterday, an as-yet-unnamed men’s indoor lacrosse franchise that is to join the Knicks, the Rangers and the Liberty in playing at Madison Square Garden.

In making the announcement, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg showed off his command of the sports esoterica, playfully acknowledging that the game’s appeal may still be a bit lost on the urban hordes who packed bars to watch the World Cup.

“I know you all agree with me that there’s nothing quite like a middie clamping down on a rock on a face-off, scooping it up and cradling it with his wand and then dishing it off to a crease attackman who stuffs it into the back of the cage,” said the mayor, who played intramural lacrosse while at Johns Hopkins.

Later, explaining that the sport is popular at city high schools, he said, “It’s a great chance to take a stick and hit somebody.”

So, starting in January, the city will join metropolises like Rochester, Buffalo and Calgary as a home to one of the fastest-growing sports in North America. According to National Lacrosse League officials, average attendance this year was just under 11,000 fans per game, with several games drawing more than 16,000. Officials said that the league approached the city’s Sports Commission to gain access to an enormous fan base in the metropolitan region.

The team, whose principal owner is Gary Rosenbach, co-founder of the Galleon Group, a manager of hedge funds, will join 12 others in the league, which just completed its 20th season.

The team has hired a coach, and the players are to be selected starting today in an expansion draft with Chicago, which also landed a new team for the 2007 season. The two teams will be allowed to pick up to 11 members each from existing teams.

The New York team is set to play four of its eight home games at Madison Square Garden, and officials are in discussions to hold the balance at the Nassau Coliseum, where the New York Saints, a defunct Long Island-based lacrosse team, once played.

Officials estimated that tickets would cost $20 to $25 on average, and predicted that the owners would work out a deal to broadcast games locally. The league has already negotiated a deal with OLN, the cable network that will be known as Versus in September, to televise 16 games nationally on Saturday nights next year.

Chicago has already selected its name, the Shamrox, but the New York team will let fans have a say with a contest, as was the case with the Brooklyn Cyclones, the minor league baseball team. People can submit their suggestions on the team Web site, www.newyorknll.com, over the next two weeks.

Tom O’Grady, the founder of Gameplan Creative, a sports branding agency based in Chicago, said that New York was lucky in having so many icons to choose from in devising a name. At the same time, he cautioned that, being New Yorkers, fans would not take to something too cute or cuddly.

“It’s a fun and youthful sport, and so it should have a name that’s fun and youthful,” Mr. O’Grady said, explaining that the sport is especially popular among college students.

Or course, Mr. Bloomberg already knows what he would call the team: “The Mighty Mikes,” he said, “seems to have a nice ring, don’t you think?”

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The 2016 Chicago Summer Olympics

Just Say YES to Chicago Hosting the '16 Summer Olympics.

The perfect American city to host the 2016 Summer Olympics is Chicago.


Well why not. Chicago is very good at a bringing a large amount of out-of-towners to it hospitable US midwest location. McCormick Place is an enormous convention hub and brings in millions of visitors and dollars to the city every year. The city has some of the most beautiful hotels, views and food in the world. Heck, it's just the best city in the United States, period.

Let me run off just some of Chicago's enormous benefits over US competitors San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Chicago has:

-A convenient lakefront proximity.
-A friendly citizentry of diversified ethnicity.
-A tight center city hub to keep housing issues manageable.
-Facilities geographically compressed to lesson commuting.
-An architecturally beautiful backdrop for television.
-A sophisticated sports populace.
-Newly built sports complexes for basketball and soccer.
-A flat terrain for track and field, cycling and other speed events.

Having lived in Chicago myself for over 30 years I can attest the Chicago would get "up" for such as global event and bring much pride and excitement to this unique and prestigious event.

I can't wait to get started. Let the Style Guide development games begin!

Go Get Them Windy City!


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sports Branding Vintage Perfection

Moonlight Graham. Where Everyday is Throwback the Clock Day.

I attended the opening of the new Moonlight Graham Apparel boutique style store on 854 W. Armitage Avenue in the trendy Linclon Park neighborhood of Chicago this evening.

Moonlight Graham website: http://www.moonlightgraham.com/

I have to give my full recommendation for anyone interested in sports branding (or not) to visit the new Store when they are in Chicago. Vintage nirvana is the best way I can describe the expereince. A true eclectic mixture of great clothes, great images and a fun ambiance to shop in. The ultimate "impulse" purchase shopper's paradise.

Bart Silberman, President and Todd Radom, the Design Consultant of Moonlight Graham have done an amazing job combining Todd's amazing talent and eye for retro stylings with Bart's outstanding feel for sports apparel and fabrication. This one-two punch is highly evident at the new retail space. The clothing selection, the attention to iconographic reverence and the general high end quality of the merchandise (even if it's just a little pricey) is just outstanding.

The connection to sports branding is very clear. With classic silhouettes from the 60' and 70's combined them with sports graphics, team logos and slogans, and mixed them together with frayed lettering, multi-layered appliques, heavy washes and lots of sanding and grinding...and Moonlight Graham has nailed a unique market for sports and non-sports consumers.

Great job Bart, Todd, Dan and the crew at Moonlight Graham-
(and save the gorgeous XL Cubs tracksuit top for me...)

From Anonymous.

I have been shopping at Moonlight Graham for the last two years, but have only been able to do so online. I am so excited about this new store in Chicago. Finally they have expanded from the West Coast to the Midwest. I recently got a chance to go to the new location and I love the decor, it goes very well with their products. Please, if you get a chance stop by. I guarantee you will walk out of there with a hat or a tee shirt that you will not find anywhere else.B.R.I.


Friday, June 02, 2006

As Good As It Gets. Thanks Bill

I have only high praise and a higher recommendation for anyone who LOVES the study of baseball uniforms and its history since 1972 to buy Bill Hendersons' CD-ROM's An Illustrated Guide to MLB Jersey Styles and Lettering: The Double Knit Era Collectors' Reference (1972-2005) 3rd Edition.



Monday, May 29, 2006

Recommeded Sports Branding Society of America Reading

Designing Brand Identity
by Alina Wheeler

A Complete Guide to Creating, Building,
and Maintaining Strong Brands.

Volume 2 was just published this March of 2006.

As part of the 3 Core Points of Mission Statement of the Sports Branding Society of America, we will be providing recommeded reading to support our goals.

From Alina Wheeler and Riley Publishing comes this gem of a book. We highly recommend it.

Please review and if you have the chance to pick it up and read it please send us a post. We'd greatly appreciate it.



Friday, May 26, 2006

WNBA at 10. In Need of Cosmetic Surgery.

It's Nip and Tuck Time for the WNBA Game.

I was fortunate enough to be part of the marketing team that pulled the WNBA idea and League together back in 1996-97. It's been one of my career highlights and something to this day I'm very proud of. It's time for this League to truly succeed and become part of our sports culture, permanently. But 10 years later and it's become it's showing its age and in needs of some cosmetic surgery.

The WNBA Game is NOT easy to watch these days. But for me it's not the womens' fault, nor the fans, nor even the marketing. Heck, marketing the WNBA since the We Got Next! campaign launched back in 1996 has been one of the League's strengths.

The reason the WNBA after 10 years is not catching on is the game itself. It's unwatchable basketball much of the time.

Let's try and conjure up different ways to tinker with rules to improve the product:

1- Lower the baskets. The only time the WNBA gets any sports news buzz is when a WNBA dunks in a game. Modern hoop fans love the old Slammonna.

The WNBA baskets are at least six inches too high. The WNBA standand move: drive/scoop lay-up after drive/scoop lay-up is reptitive and boring. We need the dunk in the WNBA.

2-Smaller and brighter orange ball. The basketball is too big for the women's hands and needs more color to increase the intensity on broadcast. The current ball is already a few millimeters smaller so keep going.

3- More real coaching, The players are generally need more development. While it's important to have WNBA girls involved in community programs, giving back, etc. give me WNBA girls that can shoot, rebound and pass, and we'll have something going.

4- Make the courts smaller. Try a 5 feet less in length and 3 feet less in width to start.

5- Have bonus points time segments. For the last minute of the half and 90 seconds at the end of the game make a 3 pointer, count for 4 points, make a 2 pointer count for 3. Adjust the scoring to create more scoring swings. I know a bit bizarre but antything to build interest in the brand.

I went to the first WNBA game ever, New York Liberty vs Los Angeles Sparks back in June of 1997. Such high hopes. Such high flying exuberance. Such a glow around that game at the old Forum. So much promise. Ten years later, I was lucky enough to attend the Chicago Sky's first game.

Same feeling. Really big expectations. Such lofty "Reach for the Sky" goals and dreams,

Then the game started and legendary player and new Sky head coach Dave Cowens even seemed bored after the opening tip. It is just not a pretty thing to look at. Maybe the WNBA can repair itself like the NHL fixed its rugby-like "neutral trap" thing, the WNBA needs some serious re-architecting and very soon!


From Brandon-

I used to think that changing the game would be a good fix, especially lowering the baskets. But I realized that the trickle down effect that this would cause makes it totally implausible. You would have to change basketball courts not just at the WNBA level, but at the college level, at the high school level, at the community gym level, and so on. That just isn't going to happen.
Tough to argue your point. Bradnon. However, we have seen some key differences to WNBA rules and the physical appearance to the game besides the obvious.

The WNBA when formed took steps to increase the games acceptance such as:

-A slightly smaller (and mulit-colored oatmeal and orange) WNBA ball.
-A shorter 3 pt. line (college length).
-More time to bring up the ball at half court (to prevent turnovers).

Plus other sublties to the WNBA game to raise scoring overall.

Commissioner Stern is a brilliant marketer and you'd be surprised at how much a basketball game studuent he really is. If Renee Brown (WNBA Operations) and Stu Jackson (NBA Operations) and the WNBA rules committee proposed radical changes to increase the game popularity, Stern would act on these I believe immediately.

The goal is to drive more scoring and make the game resemble the NBA a bit more. Any moves that would turn the WNBA into a "novelty" are not necessary.

From Brian F.

The WNBA ball is the same size as those used in the women's college game and inhigh
schools across the nation. So what you're saying is, once the players arepros, the
ball that they've been using all their lives is now too big for their"small hands?"
That doesn't make any sense. Again with the smaller court, why issomething that the
athletes have been competing on all their lives suddenly too bigfor the game's elite
players?I work in collegiate athletics, specifically on thewomen's side, and I've
seen a great deal of women's basketball games, often betterthan women's pro games.
Why are the college games better and more exciting? It'ssimple, more practice time
and a longer season. Think about how bad the basketballis in the first month or two
of the NBA. In college, noone gets to see how bad theplay is the first two months
because the fans are still focused on collegefootball. My point is, the WNBA season
is two short. The quality of play increasesexponentially as the season goes on. The
problem is, by the time the teams start togel, the three-month season is over. I
agree 100% with you on thepractice/coaching thing. Women don't need MORE coaching as
you said, they just need BETTER coaching. Hire real coaches instead of washed-up
men's college and procoaches (Henry Bibby? Kobe Bryant's dad? Give me a break).

From Tom President // SBS
More WNBA games? Sure, let's just make sure the product is improved.

-Smaller ball means better control, better control, better passing and shooting= Better games.

-Bigger rinks in international hockey make better games. Smaller courts mean less running and reducing the 3 point shot distance increases scoring=Better games.

-The college game does feel better to me, I agree. Why? Not sure. We should investigate.

The better women college coaches stay in college...for the money, power and prestige they have at the bigger programs. Think Pat Summit wants to coach the Chicago Sky? No chance.

Thanks for your responding to our blog Brian. We appreciate it.


Friday, April 21, 2006


October 4, 2003.
New York NY + Chicago IL-

Thomas F. O'Grady has founded a new sports and entertainment design and branding firm, Gameplan Creative, LLC.

Initial projects include brand identity for the launch of C-SET, Carolinas' Sports + Entertainment Television, and branding for the NBA Charlotte Bobcats (both for Robert Johnson, founder of BET Network), as well as the identity for the Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul (whose owner is Jon Bon Jovi). Other early assignments have come from Big Apple Circus and Major League Baseball. O'Grady spent 13 years shaping the NBA brand, supervising the identity of 29 NBA teams, 16 WNBA teams and eight teams in the newly formed NBDL, the NBA's minor league.

Charlotte Seeing Orange

Charlotte Bobcats Unveil Uniforms

The Charlotte Bobcats today completed the franchise's identity with the unveiling of the team's uniforms. The unique on-court look includes orange as the primary road jersey with the Bobcats becoming the only team in the NBA to wear orange jerseys for all away contests. “Charlotte asked us to create a unique identity, and this is the final branding piece of our identity puzzle that makes up the Charlotte Bobcats,” said Ed Tapscott, president and chief operating officer of the Charlotte Bobcats, which began their identity launch on June 11, 2003, with the unveiling of the team name, logo and colors.

The Bobcats Orange road jerseys will bear the “Charlotte” wordmark, and the team will wear white jerseys that read “Bobcats” for home games. Both home and away jerseys incorporate Bobcats Orange with the team’s other colors of Bobcats Blue, black and silver on a side panel design. The uniform colors combine with the wordmark lettering style and its shadowbox effect for a look that is broadcast friendly and visually appealing.

“The new Charlotte Bobcats uniform is an exciting combination of classic NBA style and progressive detailing, and we’re looking forward to seeing it on court this fall as the Bobcats launch their inaugural campaign,” said Tom O’Grady of Gameplan Creative, LLC. Christopher Arena, senior director of apparel licensing for the National Basketball Association, which worked together with the Charlotte Bobcats, and Reebok as the architects of the Bobcats identity.

To assure players gain optimal performance benefits from the new uniforms, the design team incorporated features that offer flexibility, comfort and breathability: a wider opening at the jersey’s back v-neck allows more freedom of movement than other NBA jerseys do; hidden seams alleviate the chaffing caused by exposed threads; and diamond mesh fabric inserts on the side of the uniform allow greater air flow, keeping the player cooler.

Designers also sought to give players wearing the uniforms the benefit of moisture control and a sense of weightlessness. The predominant uniform fabric, called Shimmer, uses Reebok’s Play Dry advanced moisture management system that wicks moisture away from the skin to the outside of the fabric where it quickly evaporates, preventing the heaviness of perspiration build up. Additionally, kiss-cut tackle twill lettering in the team wordmarks and player numbers is lighter in weight than the layered lettering used by many other NBA teams.

Durability was a key consideration in fabrication. Both home and away jerseys have an insert at the front V-neck, strengthening a seam that typically is at risk to stretch.

“An NBA jersey has to last through at least 50 games a season, and the Charlotte Bobcats uniforms were designed both to endure the rigorous demands of the sport and to assure a player’s comfort,” said Ken Thornby, senior director NBA for Reebok, the exclusive uniform provider of the NBA.

The Charlotte Bobcats on-court warmup program completes the team’s uniform, including black pants for both home and away games, a Bobcats Blue top for away appearances and black top for home contests, as well as three shooting shirts – one long-sleeve, one short-sleeve and one sleeveless. The warmup shorts and shirts were designed by Reebok with color direction from the Bobcats.

Fans were able to purchase replica jerseys immediately following the unveiling, with replica jerseys available exclusively at Belk Department Stores on Saturday and Sunday, August 21 and 22, 2004. The newly-introduced replica jerseys will be available at various Charlotte-area retailers beginning Monday, August 23, 2004. Fans can also purchase replica jerseys online through the Bobcats' official team store www.ShopBobcats.com.

As part of the uniform introduction the team also unveiled its secondary logo, which is featured on the team’s uniforms on the bottom mesh side panel of the shorts. The mark features a Bobcats Orange side-profile bobcat head located within a silver basketball, outlined with the team’s Bobcats Blue and black colors.

“The secondary logo adds another impression to the teams’ progressive identity,“ said Tom O’Grady of Gameplan Creative, LLC. who was the lead designer in the development of the new Bobcats brand identity. “The secondary logo retains the unique profile of the Bobcats primary mark, but since it does not have the city or team name, it allows additional flexibility through all branding touch points.”

Showcasing the new uniforms at the unveiling event at SouthPark Mall were Charlotte Bobcats players Jason Kapono and Gerald Wallace, who also signed autographs for fans. Team mascot Rufus Lynx and the Bobcats Dance Team performed for the fans in attendance.

The Charlotte Bobcats will cap off their uniform unveil activities at 7:15 p.m. Saturday night in Fort Mill, S.C., when the Charlotte Knights Triple-A baseball team wears authentic Bobcats Orange road jerseys in a home contest against the Norfolk Tide. This is believed to be the first time in minor league baseball history that a team will wear an NBA jersey in place of its standard uniform top. Each player will wear his normal baseball number on his jersey, which bears the “Charlotte” wordmark. A silent auction will be held at Knights Stadium throughout the game where fans can bid on the jerseys, which will be signed after the game by the players that wore them. Proceeds of the auction will benefit the Bobcats Charitable Foundation.

Powder Blue Is The New Teal

John Lombardo, Staff Writer  
Sports Business Journal. Jan 24-30, 2005. 

The color of money in 2004 was powder blue, with the Denver Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony taking the top spot in individual jersey sales, according to totals compiled by SportScanInfo.

"Powder blue is the next teal," said Tom O'Grady, chief branding officer of Gameplan Creative, LLC. referring to the top-selling teal color of the former Charlotte Hornets franchise in the late 1980s. "The powder blue is a nice color palette, especially when you put it on an engaging player on a team that is on the upswing."

Anthony's Swingman style jersey generated more than $14 million in sales last year, according to the SportScan data, topping an Atlanta Falcons/Michael Vick jersey that brought more than $12 million in sales. Jerseys of Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James fill six of the top 20 spots across all sports. Sales of those six James styles account for $43 million, tops for any one athlete. SportScan tracks industry jersey sales in 13,000 U.S. retail stores. While it does not include in-venue or online sales, and sales at Champs Sports and Foot Locker stores aren't represented, the totals provides a snapshot of how fashion helps drive jersey sales.

The NBA and NFL hold all 20 spots of the top-20 ranking across all sports. Major League Baseball doesn't crack the list until a New York Yankees replica home jersey appears at No. 61. The NHL's top-selling jersey is a Minnesota Wild replica red jersey; it didn't register among the top 100 overall.

The black replica jersey of Philadelphia Eagles star Terrell Owens came in at No. 4 overall, but there are signs that black is losing its reputation as a fashion statement in sports uniforms.

"Certain teams like the Oakland Raiders and the Chicago Bulls will always have black in their uniforms, but we found that it was getting monotonous and homogenized," said Sal LaRocca, senior director of global merchandising for the NBA. "And the heavy graphic (logo) look is out, with teams looking for a timeless, classic look that in five years will still have appeal."

The experts expect that Anthony's powder blue jersey will continue to sell throughout 2005, but they added that star power still pulls sales along with any prevailing fashion trends.

"The light blue will sell for a few years, but fashion is fickle," said O'Grady, whose company's recent designs include the Charlotte Bobcats uniforms and those of the Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul. O'Grady is the former creative director of the NBA. "You will see a big move toward Shaq and Dwayne Wade in Miami," he said, "and the Lakers' never go out of fashion."

Neither does the No.23 of Michael Jordan, which ranked as the 19th best-selling jersey despite that fact that Jordan retired after the 2002-03 season.

"He's the exception to every rule," O'Grady said. "Michael will never go out of style."

I Love This Jersey

Gameplan Creative to Design Bobcats uniforms

Triangle Business Journal - June 20, 2003
by Erik Spanberg

The Charlotte Bobcats have tapped Gameplan Creative to design the expansion franchise's uniforms. Tom O'Grady will work with the team, NBA Entertainment, consultant Cary Mitchell and apparel maker Reebok on the uniforms. Final designs are to be unveiled early next year.

O'Grady says team executives asked him this spring for help with the uniforms. When Bobcats owner Robert Johnson and Chief Operating Officer Ed Tapscott were working on nickname and logo designs, O'Grady recommended orange as a primary color. The Bobcats liked the idea and introduced their orange-dominated logo last week. It didn't hurt that Bob Johnson attended both Illinois and Princeton, both of whem feature orange in their colleagiate color schemes.

'Let's just say that we did our homework on Mr. Johnson's fabled background and this stood out as a motivating factor." said Gameplan Creative Founder and Chief Executive Officer Tom O'Grady.

As with the nickname and logo -- which cost $100,000 to conceive and develop -- uniforms require extensive research and investment. Tapscott declines to disclose specific costs.

"There are so many factors," he says. "Does it look good on TV? Do the colors and the fabrics go together? Can it be mass-produced for jersey sales? It's not just slapping a logo on a shirt."

O'Grady and the team have agreed on white uniforms at home and orange ones for road games. The hard work remains: choosing a traditional or futuristic style, deciding what name goes on the front (Charlotte or Bobcats) and selecting the lettering, weight of fabric, V-neck or crew neck, and more.

For now, most of the work centers on O'Grady's sketches being converted to mock uniforms by Reebok Team Outfitting, the official apparel and merchandise partner of the NBA.

O'Grady, worked at the NBA for 13 years, designing uniforms for the New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, Vancouver Grizzlies and all the WNBA team uniforms including the WNBA Charlotte Sting. When suppliers such as Nike and Reebok began making jerseys and shorts, the companies focused on more absorbent fabrics and lightweight materials.

"You have to have that, but you also want a little something different," O'Grady says. "That's where Gameplan Creative steps in."

Old School NBA-New Look Sixers

With sports merchandising accounting for huge revenues, the Philadelphia 76ers shoot for an updated patriotism in their team identity.

By Poppy Evans

Sports team logos used to do little more than identify a team and promote fan support. But with the current popularity of licensed athletic wear, team logos now play a vital role in the sales of Starter jackets, replica jerseys, and other licensed merchandise.

National Basketball Association Vice President and Creative Director Tom O'Grady recognized the revenue potential in a well-designed, contemporary logo for the Philadelphia 76ers when redesigning the team's identity. Their existing logo, designed long before team athletic wear became a trend, needed to be revitalized with the energy and punch typical of contemporary team logos.

A patriotic theme

"We began with an all possibilities approach," said O'Grady. "The Sixers wanted us to explore a wide range of possibilities." The process included about 40 pencil sketches of design concepts in stride with the patriotic theme of the 76ers. The ideas covered a broad spectrum of stylistic approaches, from historic to contemporary, and incorporated a variety of visual references, including the Philadelphia skyline, a number of patriotic motifs, and basketball imagery.

After considering all concepts, the final selection was narrowed down to a typographic approach that incorporated the 13 stars of the existing logo. The 76ers ultimately were looking for something simple and classic.

But before it was finalized, the selected design went through many changes. "As in the case of many other identities, we worked for weeks on refinements of the original concept," said O'Grady.

New owners, more tweaking

More fine-tuning came when the 76ers' ownership changed. Black was added to the logo's color scheme to meet new President Pat Croce's vision of a bolder, more contemporary look for the team. The logo was also streamlined by eliminating its 13 stars. But in the final stages of development, O'Grady and his teams reintroduced a single star into the design. "I felt it needed something that linked it to the past and the patriotic meaning of the name," he said.

The Sixers new logo has accomplished more than providing a slick new motif that rides well on NBA-licensed merchandise. "There are so many other benefits — fan interest, even player interest," he points out. "Projecting a positive, cool image on the field or court also helps recruit talented players. It makes your team a much more appealing commodity to a very broad audience."

The History Of The New York Knickerbockers

Nice article to learn about the History of the NY Knickbockers.

The Making of a Name (and Logo)

The Making of a Name (and Logo)

By Darren Rovell

Chris Weiller's office was plastered with paper in every nook and cranny, save for the windows. Piece after piece of 8-by-111⁄2 sheets with names written on them, others sheets with renderings -- yellow Post-it notes drawing attention to particular features -- serving as wallpaper.

No, Weiller isn't an FBI agent trying to track down one of the most wanted criminals. He's actually an NBA executive who led the search to come up with an identity for the league's most recent expansion franchise.

The names were possible team names. The drawings were the logos of every NBA and WNBA team in existence.

Seeing the Charlotte Bobcats' shield for the first time signified a beginning for the 7,000 people that witnessed the graphical unveiling of Charlotte's new NBA franchise last June. But to Weiller, and others who made up the franchise's identity team, the public rollout signaled the end of a long and tiresome process that collectively spanned thousands of hours of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The act of creating a professional sports team name and logo from scratch is an extremely intricate process that is made up of half whim and half science. It involves taking a bank of names and a stack of colors, devising a system to eliminate possibilities and rationalizing favorites by opinion polls or focus groups.

The search for a team name began soon after Robert Johnson was awarded the rights to the NBA's 30th franchise for $300 million in December 2002. More than 1,000 names were suggested to the Charlotte Regional Sports Commission.

A two-inch-thick, three-ring binder of names was soon presented to the identity team comprising a mix of team executives as well as a representative from Johnson's holding company and designer, Cary Mitchell.

There were clearly some names that needed to be immediately disqualified.

Among the best of the worst:

* The Charlotte Shinn Kickers, named after George Shinn, the Charlotte Hornets owner who was despised in the community even before he and co-owner Ray Wooldridge moved the team to New Orleans.
* The Charlotte Bank Shots, meant to be a play on the large banking community that makes its home in the Queen City.
* The Charlotte Carolinas, undoubtedly the work of an evil fan trying to dream up one of the most confusing nicknames in the history of sports.

A first cut reduced the names to 85 and 60 more were eliminated in the next round. The identity team then worked with the commission to come up with the final 10, which were presented to the representative group of Charlotteans in April.

"Focus groups are often sanity checks to make sure that there are no unforeseen disasters," said Tom O'Grady, whose Gameplan Branding Group was hired by the team to steer it in the right direction. O'Grady had overseen the creation of many NBA logos as director of the league's creative services division from 1990 to 2003.

What the locals thought of these names was arguably more important than team names in other pro sports communities. The name would have to be accepted on the heels of the departed Hornets, whose name and logo -- along with their mascot, Hugo -- became one of the most popular sports brands from the year the team came into the NBA in 1988 through the mid-90s.

Before ownership and city had a falling out, not only did Charlotte lead the league in attendance year after year but the Hornets' fashionable teal and purple logo also helped drive business to a point where the team had the NBA's best-selling merchandise for at least two seasons.

"Most expansion franchises just need to get their name and logo out there," Weiller said. "We needed to create our identity, but at the same time, purge the old one."

Although the team was going to make the ultimate decision, the results from the focus groups were telling.

The Carolina Cougars were in the final 10 and members of the identity team felt the name had a good chance, given that retro was in and naming the team the Cougars would provide plenty of opportunities to flash back to Charlotte's ABA days when the team with that name roamed the courts from 1969 to 1974. The chance of a resurrection quickly died after team executives looked at the data. Not enough fans even remembered the Cougars.

Charlotte Flight

Another favorite on the list was the Charlotte Flight. When asked about the sources of local pride, interview participants often mentioned the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. "Flight" also had relevance because, as North Carolina license plates already boast, the state was "The First in Flight," thanks to Orville and Wilbur Wright's achievement in Kitty Hawk, N.C., 100 years ago. North Carolina is also home to some of the nation's largest military bases, which -- according to a recent report -- will contribute more than $18 billion annually to the state's economy. The nickname's relevance to the state made it one of the three finalists.

The Flight was joined by the Charlotte Bobcats, named after the animal that is commonly found in North Carolina and is known for being sleek and athletic, and the Charlotte Dragons, a fantasy-type nickname that received kudos among respondents.

Armed with the three possibilities, O'Grady's group started making logos for each. The identity team started thinking about colors.

Mitchell, who has designed clothes for LeBron James, Tiger Woods and many other athletes, suggested to the group that orange was going to be a hot, new color in the fashion world.

Since basketball is dominated by orange -- it's the color of the rim and ball -- many of those involved found it interesting that it was relatively absent in team colors, aside from the New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns. Over the past four decades only a select group of teams, most notably the Knicks, the Spirits of St. Louis, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Suns, wore jerseys whose dominant color was orange.

It wasn't expected that Johnson would have any objection over orange. The BET founder studied at both the University of Illinois and Princeton whose teams sport different variations of that color.

Charlotte Bobcats - Proposed

Other colors for the logo were plucked from the recently redesigned logo of the Seattle Seahawks. The group borrowed the Seahawks' pacific blue and silver.

Although several team sources told ESPN.com that each team receives less than $5 million per year in merchandise sales, even on gross retail sales of $3 billion, the advertising value of a catchy expansion team name and logo often surpasses the value of a redesigned logo of a classic team.

"It's important that people want to wear the logo of an expansion franchise because it serves as an important marketing vehicle," said Christopher Arena, the NBA's senior director of apparel. Arena and other league officials typically counsel teams on designs, offer creative and legal help and do the little but important things, including making sure the colors would show up well on a television broadcast.

The Charlotte Flight didn't last long and it had nothing to do with the fact that there was already an NBDL team -- the Huntsville Flight -- with that name. The downfall had more to do with the fact that the war against Iraq had just begun and missiles were raining down on Baghdad in mid-March. Members of the identity team also thought the name was too abstract.

Had Michael "Air" Jordan accepted Johnson's proposal to join the team as an executive, the name really had potential. But the wooing was months away and Jordan ended up passing on the offer.

The Bobcats soon emerged as the leading candidate over the Dragons. Although more than 10 colleges, including Ohio University, Montana State and Quinnipiac University dubbed themselves Bobcats -- no professional major league sports team had ever taken on that moniker. The fact that the owner was called "Bob" by his colleagues helped, too. It would be the first time a league owner had his name in the team's nickname since automobile piston magnate Fred Zollner named his NBA team the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons in 1941. That team became the Detroit Pistons in 1957.

Charlotte Bobcats

With "Bobcats" prevailing, it was time to get to work on a logo. Weiller spent hours concentrating on the shape of the ears, which had taken on many different looks over the process. The whiskers that appeared on the bobcat on early versions were soon trimmed, due to the fact that the team didn't want any confusion between their logo and that of the NFL's Carolina Panthers, whose logo includes whiskers as a major part of their design.

The group decided that the bobcat in the primary logo would have a tenacious look, while the gameday mascot named Rufus would have more of a playful look.

The final touch? Adding some speed to the logo by putting the bobcat in profile. Almost all the NBA teams with mascots in their logo -- including the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Memphis Grizzlies and Milwaukee Bucks -- feature their mascots facing forward.

The fashion world might embrace the Bobcats when their jerseys roll out in August. But those that worked so long and hard and sacrificed their office walls for the project realize the best determining factor of the logo's popularity over time.

Said O'Grady: "Ultimately, the amount of people that want to wear the Bobcats logo in the next couple of years will be directly correlated to the team's success on the court."

Bucks Logo and Nickname

ON JANUARY 22, 1968, THE NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION awarded a franchise to a Milwaukee group headed by Wesley D. Pavalon and Marvin L. Fishman. The group, called Milwaukee Professional Sports and Services, Inc., named Pavalon its President and Fishman Executive Vice President. The date of incorporation was February 5, 1968.

An application from Milwaukee Pro was registered with the Wisconsin Department of Securities for the sale of 300,000 shares of common stock to Wisconsin residents at $5 per share. Because the issue caught the public's fancy, an additional 125,000 shares were offered when the stock opened on the over-the counter market on April 24, 1968.

On the basketball side of the operation the team went though both the college and expansion draft under the watchful eye of the team's first head coach, Larry Costello.

All of these developments came about for a team that had yet to gain a moniker. That changed on May 22, 1968, when Milwaukee's second professional basketball team finally got a name -- the Milwaukee Bucks. More than 14,000 fans participated in a team-naming contest. According to the 1969-70 Milwaukee Bucks yearbook (which is now referred to as a media guide), R.D. Trebilcox of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, was one of 45 persons who suggested the name "Bucks." His reasoning: "Bucks are spirited, good jumpers, fast and agile." Mr. Trebilcox won a new car for his efforts in helping to position Milwaukee's entry into the professional sports world with an enduring nickname.

With a name for the franchise in hand, Bucks executives went to work on developing a logo and colors. The majority of the task fell to John Erickson, who commissioned Milwaukee commercial artist Matt Kastelic to develop the team's first logo. The original logo featured a caricature of a buck wearing a sweater emblazoned with the letter "B" and spinning a basketball on one hoof while sitting on top the words "Milwaukee Bucks."

The original official team colors of forest green, red and white were in use since their inception in 1968 through the 1987-88 season, although red was removed from the color scheme of the uniforms for the 1985-86 season and beyond. In 1988-89 the club adopted various hues of green; forest, kelly and lime; with a white accent. The changes in color did not affect the logo.

Then on May 23, 1993 the club, coming off its 25th anniversary season, announced that Milwaukee's NBA franchise would be represented by a new logo as well as new uniforms for the 1993-94 NBA season and beyond. During the 1992-93 season a transitional logo was utilized which featured the original logo superimposed over a triangle with a ribbon-like banner carrying word of the 25th Anniversary of the club -- 1968-1993.

The new logo depicts an aggressive frontal view of the head and shoulders of an eight-point white-tail buck (a male deer) on a triangular background atop stylized Milwaukee Bucks lettering. The color scheme features hunter green, purple and silver. The three colors are currently utilized on all uniforms, warmups and other official apparel and gear, as well as on the logo itself.

Perhaps no single person was more instrumental in the push for new uniforms, colors and logo than Bucks Vice President of Basketball Operations and then-Head Coach Mike Dunleavy. One of Dunleavy's first thoughts upon signing an eight-year contract on May 12, 1992 was to upgrade the image of the club's uniforms ... to instill pride among the players and make them feel good about carrying Milwaukee's colors in front of a national audience.
Green was retained as a link to past accomplishments. Purple was introduced as a contrasting color and one that, while currently in vogue, will stand the test of time. Silver provides a perfect accent and serves to highlight the deep, rich hues found in the forest green and purple. A number of color combinations were tested before the final combination became reality. Dunleavy even scoured Milwaukee-area department stores with his three sons, to get a feel as to how the youth market reacts.

In making the announcement of a new logo, bucks Vice President of Business Operations John Steinmiller commented that "the new Milwaukee Bucks logo is intended to carry the organization through the 1990's and into the next century as an impactful and memorable identifier. It reflects the new look of the Bucks team and is in keeping with the goals of the NBA and NBA Properties for teams to maintain a current and powerful presence in their local markets as well as nationally."

The new logo was designed by the Marketing Department of NBA Properties, Inc., in an effort headed by Creative Director Tom O'Grady. "The new Milwaukee Bucks logo is an image of strength and focused determination," according to O'Grady. "The solid logo design, incorporating the powerful Buck, portrays a confident, cohesive team. It is one unit, an attribute of any good team. The Buck itself gazes steadily ahead, as if to accept any challenge that may lay in its path. The theme of solidarity is repeated upon through the physique of the muscular buck and the heavy block lettering. The unique combination of colors -- hunter green, purple and silver -- display a regal spirit of character. The combination of these elements serves to create an impressive figurehead for the Milwaukee franchise. The design of the logo is contemporary but not trendy, and should be a logo the Bucks use for many years to come."

Milwaukee's first professional major league basketball team was the Milwaukee Hawks, who played in the Milwaukee Arena from the 1951-52 season through the 1954-55 season before moving to St. Louis, where a fellow by the name of Bob Pettit led them to great prominence and an NBA championship in 1958. While in Milwaukee, one of the Hawks' backcourt aces was 5-10 guard William "Red" Holzman, who went on to coach the New York Knickerbockers to NBA championships in 1970 and 1973.

SUNS Best Dressed

The Suns' logo and uniforms are still among the best in the NBA
Best Dressed
By Brian Bujdos

SOMETIMES, TOM O'GRADY SITS IN HIS NEW YORK OFFICE and flips one by one through all of the NBA logos. That's part of his job, really, as the creative director of the NBA.

"When I look at the logos that might change now, and I've been here eight years," O'Grady says, "I look at Phoenix and pass right over it. It still feels very fresh today."

Very much a part of the marketing monster the NBA has become, O'Grady has redesigned logos and uniforms for 14 teams, including recent projects with the Nets, 76ers and Wizards.

Five seasons ago, O'Grady worked with Suns Vice President Tom Ambrose and others within the Phoenix organization to help the team design a new look.

"We felt by changing our logo and uniforms and opening the new arena, it was the closing of the first chapter in Suns history after a quarter century," Ambrose says.

Suns President Jerry Colangelo initiated the change. Not that the owner wanted to totally rework his team's identity. He wanted only to modernize the look that Phoenix fans had embraced for 25 years.

Once the Suns contacted the NBA, O'Grady took the lead.

"Jerry told us directly that he wanted something pretty timeless," O'Grady says. "He wanted to make sure it wouldn't be trendy or have a 5-to-10-year shelf life. That was a criteria we paid attention to. The first logo lasted 25 years."

Several dozen sketches were prepared by O'Grady and his staff, who then presented their best ideas to Ambrose and then-Vice President of Finance Rich Dozer, who is now the president of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

"We were continually trying to reduce the number of ideas and concepts into what we wanted," Ambrose says. "It was an evolutionary process."

The old Phoenix logo, designed by Tucson printing plant owner Stan Fabe, had beams that emanated from the right portion of the sun, appearing to point the sun in a downward direction. O'Grady was told to make a slight adjustment.

"We wanted to change it, symbolically," Ambrose says, "to have the sun going up, because we felt the franchise was headed up."

After a few more changes - putting the tail on the left side of the Sun, extending the tail, and adding a zig-zag pattern around the outside of the basketball - Colangelo and his counterparts were satisfied.

The entire process of deriving a new logo took about six months.

Next up were the uniforms.

"We wanted to take the key part of the logo," O'Grady says, "which was the streaking Sun, and put it on the front of the uniform. We manipulated it very quickly. We really mimicked what's in the logo without being identical. It came out very distinct."

In fact, it was downright cutting-edge.

"The Suns were one of the first one or two teams to use graphics colorfully on the uniform," O'Grady says. "They helped take that kind of process and technology to the next level."

What made the Phoenix uniforms modernistic was what O'Grady calls sublimation. That is the gradual changing of the sun's streak from yellow to red as it emanates outward.

"It took an extra effort on Champion's part to do the sublimation," Ambrose says of the club's uniform company. It's not difficult on a printed page, but it's tough to do it consistently on a uniform."

The Phoenix game jersey, which formerly had a Western-style look to it with the word "Phoenix" across the chest, now has the word "Suns" instead, with a streaking sun across the front.

More tidbits about the uniforms: the purple game jerseys the Suns wear are actually white when they get to Champion. Then, dyes are transferred into the material through a heating process. The word "Suns" reads the same either right side up or upside down. And, Ambrose's feelings that the franchise was headed upward were correct. The Suns reached the NBA Finals in their first season in their new threads in 1992-93.

The Sonics and Jazz also accomplished the same feat after changing their uniforms in 1996 and 1997, respectively.

These days, O'Grady says, Phoenix's logo and uniforms continue to be among his favorites.

"Looking at all the logos in the league now," he says, "the Suns are the one that will continue to stand the test of time. The design has been very successful. We feel very good about it."

The Geometrics of Sports Branding

"The Geometries of Sports Branding: An Interview with Thomas O'Grady"

Written by Gong Szeto

Filed in Gain: Journal of Business and Design.

Tom O'Grady

Thomas O'Grady was Vice President and Creative Director for NBA Entertainment. In his 13- year career with the National Basketball Association, his creative services group has influenced a generation of basketball fans as the NBA has expanded its global reach and mastered the diversity of media channels.

Why is sports branding important?

The NBA is a 56-year-old brand. NBA commissioner David Stern calls it a “living brand.” It’s a brand that, a lot like a cereal or a TV show, has seasons, with initiation points and finish points. We crescendo; there are highs and lows; there are periods of intense excitement, and periods that go slow and drag on. But sports are woven into the fabric of everyday life. That’s what I love about basketball and sports in general—that it’s a social currency.

If sports are so powerful in the global culture, why do we need design? If sports are valuable global currency alone, why do we need design today?

The game itself, when you break it down, is very tribal. My team is against your team and, after two hours, there is a winner, an end result. Design helps create that tribal experience. So your team is wearing red and my team is wearing blue; we each wear colors of our tribe or brand. It’s very primitive. You see people paint their faces with the colors of the LA Lakers and it becomes an emotionally entangled thing. As sports brand architects, we have to keep that in mind. When we’re developing a new identity for a team or creating a court for a team, we have to really become a part of that team.

Has the attitude always been that way? You mentioned that in the ‘70s the NBA didn’t have creative services and it was up to the teams to develop their own identity. At what point, and why, did the NBA step in to manage?

I think it was two-fold. First, we needed consistency standards. As the game grew on television it became more important than ever before to identify who those players were, so good design came into play to make sure number sizes and names were big enough, that there was enough color contrast during a broadcast. In the ‘70s, with the drug movement and pop culture movement, aesthetics kind of went wild. Some of the game broadcasts got a little tough to see with all of the wild colors; it was difficult to follow the ball with so many things happening. We know best what a jersey will look like, that some of these new materials don’t shine when they’re being lit in a certain angle, and what way the broadcast will look the finest. We have people in place here making sure of that.

“The game of basketball itself is very tribal. Design helps create that tribal experience.”

Were you responsible for some of the uniform innovations?

Yes. The long pants came from Michael Jordan, which is a great story. Jordan would get tired because he played so many minutes when he was with the Bulls in the mid-‘80s, so by the third quarter he would be exhausted. He would be doing a lot of this leaning over and catching his breath. Eventually he was starting to grab his pants, to hold onto them because he was exhausted. As time when on, you could see that by the end of the game his pants were long because he had just stretched them. He finally asked Champion, the uniform manufacturer, for more length in his shorts, so that he could hang onto his shorts. The next thing you know, the kids see the longer shorts and everybody’s wearing longer shorts. He created a fashion without even knowing it. It went out like wildfire, because number 23 was doing it. Kids today wear those wristbands because Michael Jordan wore wristbands. There’s a lot to be said for imitation as the sincerest form of flattery. So that’s how the long shorts started.

When did the design of basketball began to influence the street fashion scene? Was that the beginning or did it happen before?

There was a trend in general in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s of the wider, looser jeans and Timberland boots. Our NBA sports brand got hot in the early ‘90s because of MTV. The rap community embraced a lot of the wider pants and shorts and a lot of these jerseys. Remember Kris Kross? They wore all that stuff, all backwards. So that got very hot and the urban market gravitated towards that. They were already wearing basketball stuff just because they liked to play basketball, but it wasn’t part of the fashion category yet. Once the rappers really accepted that, they pushed from the sports arena into the fashion, and we saw business really increase in the early ‘90s to this place that we never thought it would end up—as part of the street culture. Our retail business really shot up. The basketball fans were really coming on. We had 10 years of Celtics/Lakers rivalries, Michael coming into the league in ‘84; there are some cataclysmic things that happened in ’84 that made a major difference in our sport. David Stern took over the reins of the commissionership in 1984 for Larry O’Brien, so there’s the first mechanism that took place. Michael gets drafted, and then around ’85, Nike signs a deal with him. They began to do the Spike Lee Air Jordan, starting a series of things that would happen to push our sport into this pop-culture phenomenon. And the key reasons are Jordan, Nike and David Stern—those three alone had a lot of impact.

How long do you think it took to get your group to a point where you could really feel the impacts of your efforts?

The first time I knew we had done something special was in 1992 when we played the game in Orlando. The tickets were looking good and I knew the feel was right. It had this Disneyland look to it. The first time we realized the impact of what we were doing was when the game started and they had an angle from the scoreboard, which looks down on the logo, and all of the sudden there were ten of the greatest players in basketball standing on that logo. The fact that sports are viewed by so many millions of people makes our responsibility a huge one—it means that our work is going to be seen every day, in every way and in every medium by millions of people as well.

How do you see the next decade? Do see some new ruptures or opportunities coming up?

As the technology evolves, as garment attributes change, as the rules of the game evolve, designers will react to the changes—anywhere from what the main garment looks like to what the geometry of the court is. We’ve talked about changing our lane into a trapezoid shape to be able to force players even further away from the basket, to open up those lanes like we talked about, which is actually an International Court. But you have to understand that guys are getting taller, faster and quicker. Will that 95 by 50 foot court be able to contain these athletes in 10 years? Will the size of the players get so large and so athletic that the constraints of that size detract from the game? We can’t predict. Genetics and natural evolution will tell us what happens there and we’ll react accordingly. If the scores start going to 150 and these guys just drop the ball into the basket, then they’ll have to raise the basket or make the rim smaller; these guys are too good now.

“The fact that sports are viewed by so many millions of people makes our responsibility a huge one. It means that our work is going to be seen every day, in every way and in every mediums by millions of people.”

Do you separate the live experience in the stadium and the televised experience, or do you try to think about them holistically? How do you approach it?

Television broadcasts to millions, so you shoot for the live broadcast. That is your red button. That’s the register, those eyeballs—six million eyeballs—watching the game. So the first point you have to get right, even if nothing else is done right, is the broadcast. You have to nail that broadcast.

Do you know Shaq?

I have met him. He’s as gregarious and friendly as you’d ever want to meet. He’s a nice guy and as big as a doorway. He is huge. I tried to shake his hand and you can’t physically shake his hand. You have to shake, like, three fingers. You put your hand out there and it just gets engulfed. He is such an unusual athlete; he’s the size of a horse.

What was your involvement with the Women’s Basketball Association?

The WNBA is a dream for a lot of us that have worked at the NBA. To be able to influence women’s sports and prove to nonbelievers that a women’s professional sports league could survive, we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves right now. This is our sixth year and we’ve hit our expectations.

It’s a basketball league that just happens to feature women—that’s the way we approach it. The same kind of care, attention to detail and branding go into the WNBA, if not more sometimes, because it’s still a little bit in the development phase. We’re not preaching only basketball, but women’s basketball: that it’s legitimate, that it’s exciting, with sensational teamwork, potentially better than the NBA. If someone were to ask me my highlight for working for the NBA, it would be launching the WNBA. I still feel best about that.

What lessons do you think the business world could learn from what the NBA has done in the last 10 years?

Brand to people. People are human beings. They are motivated by emotion and by spontaneity. They like surprises and yet they love consistency.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Retro Overkill In Sports Branding.

Look Back to Look Forward.

Old-school is new again at Mitchell & Ness, a sports specialty retailer that peddles authentic replicas of uniform tops that were once cast aside as passé, and deep-pocketed customers are plunking down hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars to sport the latest retro stylings of Joe Namath and Gale Sayers, Nolan Ryan and Magic Johnson.

It's been this way for Peter Capolino, owner of jersey-maker Mitchell & Ness, for almost two years now. He began making retro jerseys in the mid-'80s, but since he placed them on the backs of hip-hop artists and big-name athletes, revenues have grown from $2.8 million in sales in 2000 to $23 million last year. The company is on pace to double that in 2003.


I admit it. I am a throwback junkie. I bought a few cool Mitchell and Ness jerseys at about the time the throwback craze was at its' apex. I love Mitchell & Ness. And I love their products. But when sports chases fashion, sports is sure to be a season late and ultimately that merchandise ends up in the Marshall's clearance racks.

In 2006, the throwback craze is for all intensive purposes D-E-A-D.

What I continue to be amazed at is the amount of games the NBA continues to roll out Hardwood Classics Nights. I have to question why the need to look back so often when you're looked to be the innovator in marketing the game to urban America? Seems oddly backwards and speaks to a lack of originality. But don't blame the NBA as the only sports brand lacking originality. There's an epidemic of bad design work in sports design the past few years. I will save that for a later blog.

Recently, at a sports bar here in Chicago, the Memphis Grizzlies were playing the Toronto Raptors on DirecTV, and the Grizzlies were wearing the Memphis Pros throwback jerseys. I did a triple take to figure out who the Raptors were playing (since I am obsessed with this whole jersey thing) and could not figure it out until I saw the TV graphic MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES.

It then struck me. The NBA prides themselves on their branding expertise had actually lost one of their own. And wondered if I cannot figure out who the Memphis Grizzlies (Pros) are, how will someone who casually follows the game?

I figured the sale of NBA merchandise must be driving this since I had first hand information that the retro craze had driven NBA sales skyward in 2002 and 2003. So keep pushing it right?

Maybe I was too close to this thing, so as a good branding person does, I did some research and see if it plays in Memphis?



I couldn't really tell what Grizzlies fans were thinking? Maybe they're still getting used to having an NBA team in their market so they were confused as well.

So I logged onto NBA.com to find the Memphis Pros replica jersey because it must be the merchandise play and low and behold, there was no Memphis Pros jerseys of any kind to speak of? Hmmm? Then why bother.

My conclusion, the Leagues have taken a very good concept, such as the 2003 Washington Redskins 70th Anniversary Celebration jersey (which by the way is beautiful and still looks like the Redskins) see it here:


And run the whole throwback concept right into the ground. Too often for no reason just like the NBA example.

My fear is that more and more teams will look into their past when designing new team identities and instead of just using that as inspiration (except in the case of the San Diego Chargers who should have never dropped the powder blue in the first place), will copy it, and end up with some brutal hybrid version that will not be successful.

Would love your thoughts to the death of Old School. Is change good?

From Trich-

What do you then think of the Seattle Sonics logo redo of a couple years ago? It definitely has a retro feel to it, which says to me that it won't be in use for too long.And I agree with the overuse of the "classic" unis in the NBA. Seeing an Unseld era Bullets jersey now and again is great fun, but Chicago Stags? No one cares. I lost count of how many times the Bulls wore those.

From Tom-

Your Chicago Stags example is excellent. Name a Chicago Stag? Name where they played? I can't and I have been a long-time follower of the Chicago Bulls since the Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier, Chet Walker and Bob Love Bulls era of the early '70's. that's NBA Team Outfitting (Global Merchandising Group) overthinking another way to sell Swingman jerseys. No, it's doesn't work nor make any sense.

Re: Sonics retro redesign. I understand the intent...however the execution is poor. Not surprising. HADW out of Seattle did the logo and the uniforms for Seattle. They had NO sports branding experience which is another example of a high profile design firm who just don't understand what makes a great sports identity. As a footnote, Hornall Anderson Design Works (HADW) did the logo for Starbucks and Howard Schultz, yes that Howard Schultz... owner of Starbucks. There's the connection.

Thanks for your e-mail.


Charlie Finley and the Swingin' A's

Sports Branding Society

#2. "What Good Sports Branding Is". Case Study #1.

The Swingin' A's.
contributed by Tom O'Grady.

White Spikes. Handbar mustaches. Charlie Finley. Alternate yellow vested jerseys. The Mule. REGGIE. Campy. Vida. Mudcat. Catfish. Rollie. Bando and on and on and on.

The 1972, '73 and '74 World Champion Oakland A's were the essence of colorful cool.

No shoe deals. No dri-fit anything. No excuses. No overpaid marketing guys making up empty "BillyBall" taglines. The A's just won and they won hard. Brawling in the lockerroom was a way to express their love and affection for winning. They had each other's back. Dissentation as a way to keep players on their toes. The beauty of it all.

The essence of the success of the Oakland A's baseball dynasty was rooted in mission at hand, be better than the other guys in every way.

Here's to the colorful early '70's Oakland A's and what they stood for. Props to you Dick Williams. Check out this great site on the visual history of the Philadelphia/KC/Oakland


I think the Oregon Ducks are this millennium's Charlie Finley's Oakland A's...

I have heard some negative press written about the Oregon Ducks uniforms? Sure, they're a bit unusual but let's face it, they get fans of the Ducks and non fans talking and I for one LOVE their designs. Good for Phil Knight and for the gang at Nike not to play it safe like so many other college and pro teams, Snooze.

Looking for other's thoughts on teams who looked cool while being successful?

Thank you-

Tom O'Grady
Founder + President
Sports Branding Society of America

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sports Branding Society.

The Sports Branding Society of America has been established to bring a sense of value and purpose to sports and design.

My name is Tom O'Grady. The Sports Branding Society has three goals and objectives.

#1) .Define Sports Branding In Our Society.
#2). Explore Sports Branding in Our Culture.
#3). Critique Present and Past Sports Branding.

This blog will be a place where we will look to discuss issues in sports design and branding. I will provide different topics for readers and contributors to provide their thoughts and feedback about the industry. We will look for highly respected individuals to better the understanding of what Sports Branding is today in our culture.

Please feel free to e-mail me with topics and discussion points for this blog.

Thank you for your interest.


Thomas F. O'Grady
Founder + President,
The Sports Branding Society of America