Designing a New Logo? Lessons Learned from 3 NBA Teams’ New Branding

2018-08-01T12:05:15+00:00 April 26th, 2016|

Sports teams are some of the most recognizable brands in America. One by one, college and professional teams are rebranding.  Pay attention and you’ll find inspiration for branding your own team.

Lesson 1: You Need More than a Logo. You Need a Branding System

sports-branding-nba-new-logos-2016.jpgSimply put, a logo is a single graphical image that has your company name and symbol. We see them every day everywhere.

Now look at the image here of the three most recent rebranding initiatives of NBA teams (Nets, Jazz, and Kings). Each team has five logos.


These logos do not compete. They do not confuse people. But they do make the team look cool everywhere they go. This is what a good branding system affords you.  It’s multiple logos, all in the same family. It’s a color pallate that keeps your team consistent, but gives you the flexibility you need for each application.

Think about it. Today, your company’s brand extends beyond the business card and the buildboard.  You need a consistent, compelling brand on every platform: offline, online, and on social media.

A comprehensive branding system lets you scale in every direction. You will look like you belong here.

Lesson 2: You Need to Think of Your Company’s Brand as an Experience


Do you remember the movie Office Spacewhere Peter Gibbons waged war on his life-sucking corporate employer Initech?  

The film became a cult classic because it created a caricature of a terrible job with terrible bosses at a terrible company. The white collar world finally had a way to laugh about their jobs together.

This is a comedy, of course. But it’s not a joke when your company executes its logo just like Initech.

Let me explain.

Old school companies take a lot of pleasure in stamping their single logo on everything:

  • On the side of the building
  • On the front door
  • On the wall above the reception desk
  • On the wall of the conference room
  • On the coffee mugs in the kitchen cabinet
  • On the letter heads and envelopes stacked in the supply closet
  • And, if you are frisky, you’ll put your company logo on a coaster to keep water rings off your glossy conference room table.

But what does this say to everyone on the outside? 

  • You have a logo.
  • You like to spend money on
  • You’ve also shown me that you are not creative.
  • There’s nothing left to discover.
  • I’m already bored.

New school companies take every a chance they can to give their customers and clients an experience of their brand. They give people something to discover. They take pleasure in surprising their people.

Here’s a simple example. The Utah Jazz now have four uniforms: Home, Road, Alt Road, and Pride. (See them here.) The old school approach was two uniforms–home and on the road–but that doesn’t work anymore. It’s not considered “classic” but it’s understood as boring.

For the Brooklyn Nets, they launched the “Hello Brooklyn” campaign to first introduce the team, and now they carry that theme into every place. T-shirts, ticket stubs, and it’s everywhee on social media with #hellobrooklyn.

Lesson 3: Think of the Fans First

Of the three NBA teams we’re considering in this blog, the Brookly Nets are unique. They started on the street and worked their way into the arena and onto the court. 

First, the backstory. The team moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn, a part of NYC that was experiencing a cultural and economic renewal.  The Nets had a part-owner who was a rapper/celebrity Jay-Z, and he wasn’t going to mess this up.

When it came to developing the team’s brand, Jay-Z played a significant role.  He thought of the team’s brand like a clothing brand first.  If people could feel confident wearing the team’s clothing, they’re more likely to support the team and buy tickets too.  So start on the street, and then work your way to the court.

What do other teams do? I’m not an NBA insider, but I suspect that many teams who create a team brand from within the arena.  They want to perfect the fan experience inside the building.  T-shirts, jerseys, and other merchandise are an afterthought.

The experience of the team is fine once you’ve already committed to buying the ticket. But what about all the would-be fans in your city who are indifferent because nobody supports the team with a T-shirt?


The Bottom Line: Be Bold. We’ll Love You for It

Don’t settle for a single logo. Get a well-developed branding system and your company will look great everywhere.  But don’t stop there. Think of your company as an experience.  Don’t be shy about delighting your customers. Make them excited to encounter your company.

And what about putting fans first? It’s cliche, I know. But things tend to go right when this is the motivator for product development, management, and when it’s time to relaunch with a new brand.  This is how you win.



About the Author:

Matt Smith, MBA
Matt Smith is the creative force behind smithHOUSE, a Phoenix-based creative agency that focuses on the intersection of business, design, and technology. About Matt Smith.