In the spring of 1998, when I was the marketing/branding columnist for Fortune magazine (yes, really), I attended the American Marketing Association’s annual New Products Conference. Three then-new brands were singled out for special praise: Colgate Total, Dannon Water, and — drumroll, please — the WNBA, which at the time looked like a huge success.
Nowadays, of course, the WNBA is right up there with NFL Europe and televised billiards in the snooze-o-rama sweepstakes. And judging by the following note, which I received yesterday from a source at a WNBA team, it looks like they’re getting a little desperate for attention over there:
Yesterday I was able to see the designs for the Adidas redesign. If you care to, you will have a field day.
Here’s the good: All teams will now have the name of the city on the front of the road jerseys instead of the team name [as is already done by several teams]. Also, surnames will be below the numbers on the back, Ãƒ la “The City.”
The bad: Adidas has taken a portion of each team’s secondary logo and created an abstract “tribal” design. This design wraps around the sides of the tops and shorts. The team nickname will be on rear of the shorts and the secondary logo will be on the rear of the top, just below the collar.
The tribal designs are absolutely horrendous. There are a couple of decent looking ones (Detroit Shock, Chicago Sky), but the others are just nasty. I saw four different ones for the Connecticut Sun. One used the “S” in this logo and it looked like a “Snakes on a Plane” ad. Another one used the flame from the sun — when it wrapped around the ass, it looked like two giant cartoon hands copping a feel.
At our team, we had our PR company come up with some alternate designs, because the ones given to us by the league were too ugly to consider. Unfortunately, I don’t have any visuals to show you — they were taped up on the GM’s wall. I’ll see if I can get him to e-mail them to me.
Sounds pretty bad, but there’s a larger point here worth emphasizing: By imposing this “tribal” effect on all of the teams, the WNBA is essentially creating a league-wide template, and that is seriously bad news, because it diminishes the teams’ individual identities. Little subtleties that can become part of a team’s aesthetic signature (like the Tigers using lots of thin belt loops while most other MLB teams use wider belt tunnels, or the Giants using rounded edges on their nameplates while most other teams’ are rectangular) a precisely the sorts of things that fall between the cracks when a league imposes a template.
Of course, many WNBA unis are already based on their NBA counterparts, so they don’t have much individuality to start with. But that’s all the more reason not to rob them of what little distinctiveness they have left.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Truly disturbing note from Brent Smith, who writes: “I share your contempt for some of the things Nike does, so it pains me to bring this to your attention. The whole one-sleeve thing has now invaded the Division II level. This is Harding, a Church of Christ school (like this isn’t a sin!) in northeast Arkansas. They play in the Gulf South Conference, one of the power conferences in D2. The picture speaks for itself.” Indeed. … The Canadiens will retire Ken Dryden’s No. 29 and Serge Savard’s No. 18 this season. … Good catch by Jon McKay, who notes that Jerious Norwood was wearing mismatched gloves last Sunday. … The invaluable Football Uniforms Past and Present web site, which had tragically vanished from the internet several months ago, now appears to be up and running once again. … The latest chatter about the Devil Rays’ on-again/off-again brand redesign is available here. … In case you missed it buried in yesterday’s Comments section, the scoop on Takashi Saito’s gold belt buckle is that it’s a Mizuno belt, popular with Asian players. The Japanese and Korean teams both wore this design during the World Baseball Classic, as you can see here, here, here, here, and here. … We’re not the only ones who have problems with Nike (with thanks to Andy Dowland for the tip).