NEW YORK, June 20, 2017 — The NBA and Gatorade announced that beginning today the NBA Development League (NBA D-League), the NBA’s minor league, will officially become the NBA G League. — (NBA G League press release)
But the lamest of name changes isn’t the only misstep made along with this decision. They have also unveiled a new logo to represent its development league that will replace the logo they’ve been using since 2001.
I don’t disagree that the old logo could use an update, but it was already in use so while that doesn’t necessarily mean it should never change it does mean that if you are going to change away from a logo you’ve been using for six years, it should at least be an improvement. Here’s a few reasons why I feel like it’s not.
1) It doesn’t represent an increase in value.
You know how from the moment you drive a car off the lot it starts losing value. A good logo is the opposite. The moment you put it into use it gains in value. The more consumers come to associate it with your brand, the more value it holds. It represents the value of being recognizable, of nostalgia from past positive experiences, and it is present on merchandise living out in the world. The moment you rebrand you discount all those things. That’s why a rebrand should be subtle. It should give a nod to its predecessor in a way that doesn’t make it irrelevant. It should be a passing-of-the-torch for the nostalgia and connection to fans it has built over the years. This logo does none of that. There is nothing about this logo that honors the past or represents, from what I can tell, a benefit. Because logos have these entrenched connections, any rebrand that doesn’t represent an increase in value, represents a loss. A loss of hard won consumer affinity.
2) It’s less balanced than other sports league logos.
The red white and blue silhouette logo is iconic. While the NFL and NHL don’t mimic it like the MLB logo does, there is no shortage of smaller off-shoot leagues that mimic the style of the NBA logo to varying degrees of success. The ones that do it well create a balance between the red, white and blue. By balance I don’t mean the same amount of color, I just mean that the shapes created by each swath of color interact well together. In the new D-league logo (I refuse to call it the G-league) this balance is totally lost. The goal is to, more or less, divide the logo into three sections. Blue pre-silhouette, the white silhouette and red post-silhouette. This new logo has curled flailing limbs which break up the elegant style of this type of logo into several indistinguishable parts. I have total confidence that the creator of the logo didn’t get that it’s more than just dropping a silhouette on a background. By keeping with that convention it would have honored the old logo as talked about above, while giving a nod to the parent NBA logo. Disregarding both of these, along with well established design language and style conventions represents a missed opportunity to create a much deeper mark that tells a greater story, creating more consumer loyalty and therefore more value.
3) It’s less dynamic than the original.
In the original D-league logo it shows a player completely stretched out reaching for the rim. There are some unfortunate issues with perspective and proportion which could stand to be rectified, but it has been in use for six years so it has benefit of equity built over time. More importantly, I think the actual action depicted in the older logo is much more powerful and meaningful than the new take. In the old logo, the completely outstretched figure gives the impression of rising, striving for the rim — a nod to the goals that the players seek to achieve. The new logo doesn’t create a line for the eye to follow leading you to the ball. You end up looking at the face, with nowhere to go. It doesn’t mean anything. Worse, with the limbs curled inward it gives the impression that it struggles to fit the frame and before someone tries to say it represents their potential can’t be bound to the box, I’ll point out that I think it says the opposite. It looks static and cramped. I think the figure ends up looking very boxed in, stifled, almost trapped. Not a message you want to send about an organization that exists to develop players out of it. Which leads to my next point.
4) It doesn’t speak to “development” at all.
I’ve always liked the fact that it’s called the Development League versus simply the “minor” leagues. It says that the focus is on the development of players, rather than simply what’s left over from the Major league. In keeping with that, the logo should feel highly aspirational and speak to striving towards the NBA, transcending the D-league and achieving goals. The fact that this element has been left behind belies a deeper shift happening within the NBA as an organization — a shift that extends from the logo to the new name. The renaming literally takes the word “development” out of it. Instead of it being the D for Development league. It’s the G for Gatorade league, and apparently nobody stopped to consider what that implies.
5) A sponsors logo in your logo is the trashiest thing I have ever seen in branding. Literally.
NASCAR has long been ridiculed because of their over use and abuse of their logo on anything they can find, as well as allowing teams to pack sponsor logos into every square inch imaginable. And even NASCAR hasn’t sunk so low as to put a logo IN their logo. That is crazy. First let me say that I get it. With the money from the Gatorade deal they are (hopefully) going to be able to serve D-league players that much better. It’s sponsorship deals like this that make the D-league possible. Yeah, maybe. Also, the NBA is insanely profitable so it’s not like they couldn’t afford to support it if it was truly a strategic priority. Making it self sufficient is an important business move, which I understand, but in my opinion they have completely sold it out. The moment you put another company’s logo in your logo, you are saying our logo doesn’t really matter. Truly, your logo ceases to exist, and it becomes just another graphic with the Gatorade logo on it. The worst thing about this is that it’s one thing for the NBA to say the D-league doesn’t matter enough to have a distinct identity, or for Gatorade to say the league doesn’t matter enough to honor it and give it the respect it deserves, but to those in the D-league I would bet the identity of being there matters quite a bit. No matter what people say, playing in the D-league is an accomplishment in and of itself and represents the hope and promise of goals not yet met and I think they deserve to have that honored and not to be human Gatorade billboards. From a more technical design perspective, the fact that the only color in the mark is on the Gatorade logo sets the visual priority there, literally conveying that the sponsor is the priority. How fitting. Say what you want, but it’s demeaning.
Overall, I don’t think a change was totally necessary
but I understand if people felt like it was. What should have happened was a thoughtful assessment of all stakeholders and what this logo really represents and means. It should have been about subtle improvements that walk this logo into a new era.
Instead, the end product is lazy. It is a thoughtless silhouette, crammed into a box, that serves as pedestal on which to set the Gatorade logo. I think both the fans and the players deserve better.
Logos done right can be extremely meaningful and powerful. They send key messages to your constituents and serve as a banner to rally under. Unfortunately, logos done wrong can be equally as powerful and impart messages of their own. In my mind, there’s no doubt that this was a massive misstep for the league which unintentionally conveys some ugly truths about what the league has become. Lazy with the details for fans and players, because sponsors are the priority.
What are your thoughts on the new name and logo? What do you think about my assessment of the direction the NBA is headed?