We construct our experience as sports fans around a series of elements — specific memories, mottoes, players, regional identity. The sum of all this is often referred to as the brand experience, and there are few spheres in American culture where that phenomenon resonates greater than in sports. When it comes to brand awareness, visual representation is vital to the way we relate and respond to certain teams. There’s a reason the Yankees, Steelers, Celtics and Canadiens haven’t futzed around with their logos too much over the years. As storied franchises, they’re intent on evoking purity and nostalgia as key components of their brand, which makes a lot of sense because these teams have enjoyed a lot of success.
1978-82: Fear the Creamsicle
Since they moved west from Buffalo in 1978, the Clippers haven’t dabbled too much in branding exercises. For their first few seasons in San Diego, the Clippers sported a smart, delightfully abstract motif of three large white masts before a setting orange sun. This is the image we fondly know as the retro or vintage Clippers logo. When the league was aggressively promoting its Hardwood Classics line a few years back, we saw quite a bit of the sky blue and creamsicle orange.
Four seasons after relocating to San Diego, the Clippers unveiled the breezy royal blue script superimposed over a red-seamed basketball, the logo they’ve essentially had as their primary badge for the past 28 years. Apart from swapping Los Angeles for San Diego, the Clippers have made small tweaks over the years and are rumored to be taking another stab at updating the logo, but with only negligible changes. For an organization that seeks to carve out an identity in a crowded market it shares with the Lakers, it’s curious that the Clippers haven’t devoted a little more attention to brand aesthetics. The most distinguishing feature of the current Clippers logo might be its resemblance to the Lakers’ logo.
The Clippers will spend much of the offseason rebranding themselves in a couple of important areas. The team will hire a new head coach for the first time in seven years. It will likely welcome another Top 10 draft pick, possibly a top tier free agent, a new supporting cast and, most important, will promote Blake Griffin as the face of the franchise. If ever there was a moment to introduce a new emblematic image for the organization, this is it.
Rolling out a new logo, uniforms and possibly a new color scheme comes at a great expense. Commissioning new graphics work is costly, to say nothing of the zillions of places — facades, home courts, equipment — the new image would need to replace the old. As alluring as we imagine a fresh design to be, there’s also no guarantee that the effort would be successful. We live in an era when technology and connectivity has made visual images present everywhere. It’s hard to be original when virtually every creative idea is seemingly informed by something that preceded it. On the flip side, that technology and accessibility mean there are more people than ever who have the talent and capacity to share their creative vision with the world.
If you’re one of those people, what does a new Clippers logo look like in your imagination? Would you retain the current red and blue? Would you pay homage to the team’s vintage logo? Should the sky blue the team wore in Buffalo and San Diego make a comeback? Should a new logo incorporate Los Angeles into the motif? Is it important that a less recognizable brand like the Clippers convey “basketball” in its image so that people know the Clippers aren’t a personal hygiene product? Should the logo be cutting-edge or should it conjure up the timelessness of the game?
Please send your submissions to clipperblog -at – gmail.com and we’ll post a range of ideas prior to the NBA Draft Lottery on May 18. If you’d like to toy with home and away unis, we’d love to see that too!