- Making or becoming different
- Exchange or replacement
Change can be a scary thing for some. Growing up as NFL fans, many of our fondest memories of the game are tied directly to the sights and sounds of the direct experience. The game winning pass or touchdown saving tackle is seared in our minds with a visual of the player’s performance. The celebration of championships are often recalled through the prism of colors that explode when the final seconds tick off the clock. We reminisce about our favorite players suited up in a particular uniform. So change can ultimately alter our recollection of things we deem good about the teams and players we identify with.
The Denver Broncos had long been identified by their orange jerseys and the distinctive “D logo” on their helmets up to 1996. The Broncos had built a rabid following throughout the state of Colorado and beyond as the “Orange Crush” and participated in 4 Super Bowls wearing these iconic uniforms. When NIKE took control of the design in 1997 they drastically altered both the colors and logo to the degree that there was quite an outcry of disapproval from the fan base. “How could you replace our beloved orange with navy blue?” That very season Denver would win the first of back-to-back Super Bowl championships with navy jerseys, a pseudo NIKE stripe along the side, and a giant horse head on the side of their helmets. CHANGE was good.
Part of the growing change of the NFL is the mammoth marketing of merchandise that is directly tied to the uniforms of the 32 teams. From a financial aspect the turnover of colors and design is just good for business. Fans want the newest gear and will go out of their way to get it. But sometimes change is necessary to pull an organization out of a funk. A new look can help build a new culture, which ultimately can lead to winning ways. A few changes in uniforms are being displayed this preseason by the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
From my perspective the winner in the “best dressed” category for 2013 is the new look Jags. Their uniform change is reflective of an organizational overhaul by second year owner Shahid Khan and if Jacksonville’s players play as sharp as they’re dressed, then good things are on the horizon for a team that hasn’t had a winning season in six years.
INSIDE NIKE’S REDESIGN OF NFL UNIFORMS
WITH A VISUAL REDESIGN FROM NIKE, THE JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS JOIN A GROWING LIST OF SPORTS TEAMS THAT ARE TRYING ON MAJOR UNIFORM OVERHAULS
BY: CHUCK SALTER
Since buying the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars last year for $770 million, auto-parts billionaire Shahid Khan has been trying to revive one of the NFL’s worst teams. He’s brought in new coaches and players. He’s upgraded team facilities and added fan amenities. And this fall, he’s sending the Jags onto the field with a dramatic new look: a menacing logo, a striking two-tone helmet, and a completely redesigned jersey. “It’s got to look cool,” Khan says of the attire. “We want to signify this is a new direction, a fresh start. We need more fans.”
Overhauling uniforms as a way to amp up enthusiasm and merchandise sales is an increasingly popular strategy in the pro-sports world. In recent years, teams such as the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays, and the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks have generated buzz with eye-catching reboots, and the pace of such face-lifts only seems to be increasing. “Redesigns have always been a part of sports, but things are different now,” says Paul Lukas, creator of Uni Watch, a popular blog that covers “athletics aesthetics.” For one thing, there’s more at stake: Annual merchandise revenue for the NFL, MLB, and NBA is at record levels, with the NFL alone raking in an estimated $9.5 billion in total revenue. And teams must now work harder than ever to attract fans’ endlessly divided attention.
For the Jaguars’ redesign, Khan worked with Nike, which last year began making NFL uniforms as part of a reported $1.1 billion deal that lasts through 2016. (The company is also behind the less-bold 2013 uniform tweaks for the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings.) The goal was to create something flashy and different, but not too radical for either the team’s supporters or the NFL, which has to approve all uniform-design changes (the league designs logos itself). “We err on the side of evolution, as opposed to revolution, which is where we have a healthy debate going with Nike,” says Leo Kane, the NFL’s senior vice president of consumer products. “We’ve encouraged them to push us.”
- The helmet’s unique design fades from matte black in front to shiny gold in the rear.
- Nike’s Jags jersey is made out of high-tech stretch material that hugs the torso for a sleek look but still offers the necessary range of motion.
- An armed-forces-style badge is a nod to Jacksonville’s sizable military community.
- The belt adds hidden padding, which could help players avoid hip pointers, a common injury.
- When a player interlaces his hands just the right way, the gloves create a single image, the team logo.
Chuck Salter is an award-winning senior writer at Fast Company. His work has also appeared on This American Life and in The New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times.