The Best and Worst Modern NBA Rebrands

by | Oct 12, 2022 | Branding

There is an increasing tendency for NBA teams to rebrand to stay current and fresh. One clear trend is that teams are moving away from the more detailed and evocative designs that were popular in the 90s and early 2000s, becoming simpler, if not minimalistic.

Let’s start with the Detroit Pistons, whose rebrand is the muse of this blog. Not to be dramatic, but this rebrand seems nearly criminal. The old logo showcases the character of Detroit and puts its Motor City roots front and center. It shows the mascot in a way that feels regal, powerful, and intimidating. A rare combination that sports logos have striven to emulate. It was one of the few logos that successfully represented both the city and the mascot. The new logo strips away all the character of the old logo and melts it down into a lifeless, generic basketball logo that represents neither the mascot nor the city.

On the flip side, the Milwaukee Bucks had one of the best modern rebrands. They didn’t gut all the old brand elements, like the Pistons did, but just improved upon them. They made the lines cleaner, removed purple as a primary color (it can still be found as an accent on some of their jerseys), and added in the subtle “M” for Milwaukee in the neck of the Buck. They also kicked off their “Fear the Deer” campaign in the playoffs, which seems to fit better with their new logo design.

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The Charlotte Hornets rebranded in 2014, after a stint as The Bobcats,” and switched back to The Hornets with a strong new logo. Their original logo looked cartoony, but their new logo hit a home run with sharp but simpler graphics that turned the hornet into something that ought to be feared!

The Denver Nuggets successfully transformed their identity from a similarly cartoony execution to a more sophisticated mark that still represents mascot, city, and mountains with the addition of the pick axes. It ties several defining elements together without feeling busy or distracting.

Apparently, some NBA logos are incomplete without a basketball. The Houston Rockets, like The Pistons, seem poster children here. I think The Rockets did a great job going from the cartoony rocketship logo to the rising rocket (or is it a scoring “R”?). The new logo just adds a black basketball which doesn’t add anything besides a complimentary color, and the circular band spelling out the team name is rather old school. Neither seems necessary. They could have done a lot more if they were going to update their logo, potentially by adding in some of their old colors with a modern feel. I think Houston needs to go back to the drawing board on this one.

I’m curious to see which of these new rebrands hold the test of time. What do you think? Who did I miss?

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Six Degrees uses psycho-sensory tools and techniques to build more successful national and global brands. Brands are rooted in human perception. And our psycho-sensory approach is designed to identify deeper and richer insights from human perception and then develop brand communications that change suboptimal perceptions or reinforce the right perceptions. More than 80 percent of the information humans process is nonverbal, making it essential that brands manage the sensory signals they send out. Our people are passionate branding experts wielding powerful psycho-sensory tools to build stronger and more successful brands across the globe.

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