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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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What Is a Clipper? Behind the Scenes of an NBA Rebrand

  • The Clippers have unveiled new colors and logos for next season.
  • Front Office Sports chats with the team’s business head about the rebrand.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a clipper as “something that moves swiftly: such as a fast sailing ship.”

That turned out to be key in the newly announced rebrand of the Los Angeles Clippers, who are just months away from moving into their new $2 billion arena, the Intuit Dome. On Monday, the franchise announced the transition will include a fresh look, complete with new primary and secondary logos as well as official team colors. 

Front Office Sports caught up with Clippers president of business operations Gillian Zucker to talk about the cost of rebranding, the challenges of keeping it quiet, and the decision to lean into the maritime roots of the team, which played in San Diego from 1978 to ’84. Below are excerpts from the conversation, some of which have been edited for clarity and brevity.

How much financial investment went into the rebranding process?

A lot less than it would if you were doing a rebrand for an existing building. When you think about all of the branding that is incorporated into a building, it’s a lot. And if you start going through and trying to change all of that out, if you’ve updated a logo, it could be extremely expensive. But in this particular case—because we were already in the process of putting in all of this signage—much less so. Really, the expenses were confined to things like design work, research, and protections for the marks.

Why announce the news now instead of after the season?

So much about what happens with the facility means that we have to stay on schedule. They’re beginning to install things like the court at the practice facility and other things that will have branding on it. So, given that that was the case, and these are beginning next week, we felt like we absolutely had to get ahead of it, or it certainly would leak out without the benefit of the background behind it.

Was it hard to keep the news from leaking?

There are always close calls here and there. When you have been working on something for so long, you also forget who knows. But the way that we were successful was we kept the group very, very tight who actually knew the details, and we kept it very, very broad for the people who actually had input. A lot of very surreptitious research was done. There were a ton of focus groups. There were a lot of questions asked that related to certain things—particularly the colors—that probably people didn’t know why they were answering them.

What inspired the emphasis on the franchise’s nautical heritage?

When we asked fans what a Clipper was, they would respond with things like: “We have a direction. We have a North Star. This is a team that stands for something.” And we would say yes, but what is a Clipper? What is that, actually? And people did not know. Once they realized they didn’t know, they were like: “Oh, but I want to know. What is the Clipper?” So that was really where we really took our direction.

What happens to the outgoing logos and apparel?

We’ll continue wearing the marks that we’re in now throughout the rest of the season. These marks, they never tire. People love wearing retro gear. I think it’s going to be very popular, especially knowing there’s something new coming.

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