The Las Vegas Lights will flicker through uniforms this season as the soccer team will wear 17 different home jerseys.
The idea came from the USL Championship team’s campaign to allow fans to design a jersey in the off-season. Overwhelmed with hundreds of responses, the Lights leadership decided to have fun, team owner and CEO Brett Lashbrook said.
“I saw this more and more in European leagues, like Manchester City – it seems like every time I’m watching, they have a different jersey,” Lashbrook said. “Oregon football, how cool that was? And how were they perceived in the marketplace? You can do cool fashion, cool designs, but it’s not just 17 jerseys, you’re going to see some of ours that are traditional and others that are something no one else has.”
Each jersey will be announced with the hopeful designer in attendance, and Lashbrook said the different looks are meant to reflect their community.
While the initial announcement of 17 jerseys was met with displeasure from some of the fanbase, Lashbrook believes the outrage will subside when the jerseys are unveiled and show they all fit within the team’s color scheme of yellow, blue and pink. All the jersey designs will also feature jersey sponsor Zappos, the online retailer.
“They’re all going to have our logo, all going to be uniquely Vegas,” he said. “I also love being able to say, ‘If you don’t like it, great; submit one, we’ll have a new one next game.’ It allows the fans to be part of it.”
“It’s fully in line with our moxie. It’s OK to laugh. It’s OK to smile,” he said.
Perhaps the most significant piece of the puzzle will be the last jersey announced, which will be decided by the highest bidder. Lashbrook said the jersey has to be approved by the league, so there are limitations, but he wants it to be as open as possible.
But Lashbrook expects outlandish possibilities, ranging from proposals to companies making ridiculous advertisements. Just as possible could be someone’s cat. There needs to be about a three-month lead time.
“All I know is no one has done this before, and I hope that we’ll have a lot of fun with it, with people bidding on various designs and amounts,” he said. “Boring is not going to cut it in minor league sports. We have to continue to find new ways to market, and I don’t know if this is going to be a revenue stream or not, it is at least going to be a way to get the word out.”
The first jersey of the season stems from the original call to action, coming from a 16-year-old student at Southwest Career & Technical Academy in Clark County. The jersey features confetti blasts, similar to those after a goal scored at home. Other designs will be revealed in the coming weeks.
Giving the team the ability to roll out different jerseys is the Las Vegas Lights’ supplier, Australia’s BLK. With two months’ notice, the company can manufacture the jerseys, unlike the often year-plus lead time from the big apparel brands.
The Las Vegas Lights did play in a few special jerseys last year, including a 1994 U.S. World Cup throwback and a Vegas Golden Knights-themed jersey. The success of those nights led to the exploration of doing more.
Lashbrook said he’s not sure whether to expect any added revenue from the jerseys, since the limited runs will be more expensive, with only “hundreds” being made. The limited-edition jerseys will be sold to the public, at a retail price of $99, up from the first two season’s $80. Season ticket holders – packages are $200 – receive a jersey for free.
“The driver is how to connect with fans,” he said. “I see it all as neutral because our costs are going up, but I see it creating interest in a marketplace, connecting a further bond with the fans, a season-long story with local media.”
Those benefits are all plausible, J.W. Cannon, senior director of sports alliances for American Cancer Society, said. However, Cannon said the Lights risk brand dilution if consistent elements aren’t in the jerseys and if the game and players take a back seat.
“It’s all about execution, particularly in how they tell the story beyond just the quirky jersey,” Cannon said. “Funky jersey games are a dime a dozen these days; tactics are similar from team to team. How will they differentiate?”
The jersey campaign is just the latest effort by the Lights, who were called “The Most Interesting Team in Sports” by Sports Illustrated in its first season. Along with the 17 jerseys, the team will also host a midnight game this summer, a nod to a former Las Vegas minor league hockey team that would play games at midnight.
An essential piece to the whole puzzle, as Cannon suggested, is that it doesn’t affect the 90 minutes on the field. The first two seasons haven’t seen much on-the-field success, but Lashbrook hopes this season will be different, and the uniforms might help.
“It creates more interest so that on-field or off-field, there’s a symbiotic relationship,” he said. “All of these promotions play into how do we get people in the stadium and then start winning?”