Can Design Impact a Team’s Win Percentage?

Being a designer and sports fan (like I am) is a mix of interests that don’t always overlap. However, I often see designers posting their own design takes on a team’s logo, uniform, and overall branding. It got me thinking about REAL rebrands in sports and the possible lasting impacts they might have. More specifically: can design impact a team’s win percentage?

The power of a brand

I recently read an article about how the Los Angeles Clippers should change their name and rebrand due to last year’s controversies brought about by their former owner Donald Sterling. That’s on top of the fact that despite recent winning, they’ve been largely irrelevant during their 37 seasons. They take a back seat in their own city, in their own BUILDING to the LA Lakers.

This season, the Clippers were 35-19 at the All-Star break, good for a 6th seed playoff spot in a highly competitive western conference. The Lakers were 13-40.  They are the 4th worst team in the entire NBA. Yet they continue to crush the Clippers in TV ratings. That just illustrates the power a brand can have.

The argument against rebranding is that you’d be throwing away the brand equity you’ve built as an organization over a long period of time. Would it diminish the power of your brand? Change is hard. Large financial interests are at stake but I would argue that WINNING is the number one key to building a fan base and increasing sales revenue/profit. The Lakers fan base still tunes in because they have a long history of winning, including championships as recent as 2009 and 2010.

Teams that have rebranded in a significant way

Consider the following a brief (and incomplete) research project. Here’s a look back at the records of a few teams that have gone through some level of significant rebranding. What were the records before and after rebrand? You’ll find some very interesting trends.

2-Logos

NFL

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1997)

  • 10 years PRE rebrand (‘87-96) Record 52-107= .327% (0 playoff appearances)
  • 10 years POST rebrand (‘97-06) Record 87-73= .544% (6 playoff appearances, 2002 SB Champ)

Tennessee Titans (1999 – formerly Houston/Tennessee Oilers)

  • 5 years PRE rebrand (’94-98) Record 43-47= .477% (0 playoff appearances)
  • 5 years POST rebrand (’99-03) Record 56-24= .700% (4 playoff appearances, 1999 SB Loss)

MLB

Seattle Mariners (1993)

  • 10 years PRE rebrand (’83-92) Record 718-901= .443%  (0 playoff appearances)
  • 10 years POST rebrand (’93-02) Record 840-711= .542% (4 playoff appearances)

Tampa Bay Rays (2008)

  • 10 years PRE rebrand (’98-07) Record 645-972= .399% (0 playoff appearances)
  • 7 years POST rebrand (’08-14) Record 627-508= .552% (4 playoff appearances, 2008 WS Loss)

NBA

Oklahoma City Thunder (2008 – formerly Seattle SuperSonics)

  • 6 years PRE rebrand (‘02/03-‘07/08) Record 215-277= .437% (1 playoff appearance)
  • 6 years SINCE rebrand (’08/09-‘13/14) Record 294-182= .618% (5 playoff appearances, 2012 Finals Loss)

Washington Wizards (2011)

  • 3 years PRE rebrand (‘08/09-‘10/11) Record 68-178= .276% (0 playoff appearances)
  • 3 years SINCE rebrand (’11/12-‘13/14) Record 93-137= .404% (1 playoff appearance)

Brooklyn Nets (2012 – formerly New Jersey Nets)

  • 3 years PRE rebrand (’09/10-’11/12) Record 58-172= .252% (0 playoff app)
  • 2 years SINCE rebrand (12/13-‘13/14) Record 93-71= .567% (2 playoff app)

New Orleans Pelicans (2013 – formerly The New Orleans Hornets)

  • 2 years PRE rebrand (’11/12-’12/13) Record 48-100= .324%  (0 playoff app)
  • 1.5 years SINCE rebrand (13/14-‘14/15) Record 61-74= .452%  (0 playoff app*, .5 year cutoff at all-star break Feb 12)

Let’s go to the chart!

3-RebrandGraph

The y-axis is winning percentage. The x-axis is years/seasons relative to the rebrand. Notice anything? All of these teams had higher winning percentages in the very first year of rebrand. Beyond that it flutters but for the most part, the lines show the most activity in the lower left quadrant (losers pre-rebrand) and upper right quadrant (winners post-rebrand).

There were only a few teams that rebranded but got inconclusive results: Baltimore Ravens (2006), Arizona Diamondbacks (2007), and Miami Marlins (2011).

Other factors of change

Clearly, there are many other factors that can impact a team’s winning ways. Factors at play could include relocation, name changes, new stadiums/arenas, and of course new players and coaches. We could dissect each example above and find something else that made an impact (e.g. Russell Westbrook joined OKC in the first season of rebrand, and with Kevin Durant already there, those guys are really good). However, I believe the rebranding, the redesigning of a team’s identity, and all the excitement and buzz surrounding it has a positive impact on the inner culture and outer perspective of a team.

Is it simply change that matters? Not just design change?

Looking at the changes these teams made purely from a design perspective, I don’t think all of the rebrands were an improvement over what they had before. That’s just my opinion. So while design MIGHT have a positive impact on a sports team’s winning percentage, I might argue that any change or shift in identity can be good for organizations, especially losing ones. That may be obvious.

Could this translate to your team? Your company?

Could a design change make you a winner? Here at Innate, we rebranded in the past year. Every step we’ve taken to build our new identity has made us stronger. We have an identity that we believe in and has been tailored for who we are RIGHT NOW. That alone makes us feel like winners.

Disclaimer:

  1. Not every sports rebranding effort was included in this research. Duh.
  2. Rebranding involves more than just design. Duh.
  3. Sports stats can be skewed to whatever narrative you like but my intent here is not to deceive. This is intending to be thought provoking so take my take with a grain of salt. Always.

References:

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/

http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/

http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/

Thanks for reading sports fans.

#winning.

Casey Hawes

Art Director

He’s a maniac, maniac on the 8th floor, and he’s designing like he’s never designed before. Wait, that makes him sound bad, when he’s actually pretty good. He’s a Columbus College of Art & Design grad, huge sports fan, and has a dog named Batman. He also loves writing his own bio.

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