Friday, April 21, 2006

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."

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