August 13, 2010

The Magic of a Golden Jazz Logo

Its been a busy offseason for NBA rebranding, as 3 clubs have introduced new identities for the upcoming 2010-11 season. The Association must think its followers forget exactly what sport they're watching, as 19 of the 30 clubs feature a ball in some way in their primary logo (compared to 11 of 30 in baseball and just 1 of 32 in the NFL). When viewed as a group, the NBA logos don't stand much apart from one another, especially considering at least 9 of the logos don't even display any connection to the team nickname.

The most dramatic of the rebrands is the Golden State Warriors. The only good decision to come from the process was to get rid of the blue warrior (in front of a basketball, naturally) the team had featured since 1997. The new logo is an homage to 'The City' logo and uniforms from the late 60s/early 70s that have regained popularity in recent years. While the idea of paying tribute to the past era is valid, the execution is nothing short of a debacle. There is not a single redeeming quality about any part of the new logo. The bridge is poorly drawn, the outer strokes are unexplainably uneven and bottom-heavy, the type is dreadfully unreadable (Copperplate Gothic? Really?) With an already successful logo in its past, why not just bring it back in its original form? What is the need to change something that people clearly liked and enjoyed?

From the Shaq/Penny era, through the McGrady regime, to the current Howard age, the Orlando Magic have had one of the most recognized brands in basketball. Since the club's inception in 1989, the primary logo has featured a star replacing the 'A' and dotting the 'I' in Magic in two variations. However, for some reason the Magic have decided to abandon their most identifying trait in favor of... a basketball! The swooshing ball accompanies the new wordmark, which has been displayed on the jerseys since 2003. The move is probably meant to unify the entire package, but begs the question why the uniforms didn't match the logo in the first place. The previous mark was memorable and successful in its own way. A better approach would have been to just drop the basketball and put the starry Magic back across the chest, as they did up until 2003.

Luckily, the higher-ups in Utah recognize the value of brand equity. The Jazz are reintroducing the music note logo, marking the return of one of the most unique logos in all of professional sports. The logo remains in its original 1974 glory, with the exception of a faint grey outline and a color shift from purple to navy. The two changes update the logo in a very subtle way without altering the original intention. The only puzzling aspect of this rebrand is why the club is holding on to its mountain logo, which will see its third color scheme of the last 7 years. With such a great logo that has been present since the very beginning, having two logos only damages the brand recognition. Hopefully this will only be a transition period and the mountain logo will be phased out soon.

The move is similar to the 76ers move last year to ditch its overly-complicated late 90's rebrand in favor of the simpler logo the club had been using since day one. While the original logo is guilty of featuring a basketball, it does have uniquely quirkly typography and the ring of 13 revolutionary stars. Other teams would be better-suited to follow the example the Sixers and Jazz have set by reclaiming lost brands that had been abandoned in the past.

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