Monday, 20 May 2019 10:23

Thoughts on WNBA Rebrand from Denver Brand Development Agency

Last month, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) began a rebranding effort to change its look in the 2019 season. They announced the branding update on Twitter, releasing a new logo, a new slogan — “Make Way” — and a new partnership with AT&T. As a top brand development agency in the Denver area, FiG wanted to comment on this interesting branding move for such a large organization.

The WNBA Rebrand: Thoughts from a Denver Brand Development Agency

The Initial Rebrand

Not many people may remember this, but the WNBA already underwent a rebranding change in 2013. Yes, it’s true! Since their inaugural season of 1997, the WNBA logo consisted of a red, white, and blue shield-like brand that borrowed heavily from the original NBA logo. The updated logo was based off of the “orange and oatmeal” color of the basketball the league uses in its games, picturing a woman performing a lay-up as opposed to just a dribble.

The brand development agency that executed this new identity noted that the goal of the rebranding effort was to reflect how the level of play has changed since 1997. This new logo was designed to reflect the diversity, athleticism, and competitive nature of the current game. The new logo even had a social media campaign surrounding the “logo woman.”

The older logos of the WNBA. On the left, the original WNBA logo from the organization's inception in 1997. On the right, the rebranded logo from 2013.

The Second Rebrand

It’s 2019 now. And the WNBA has, yet again, enlisted the help of a brand development agency. The updated logo takes the silhouette out of the box and places it on its own next to the updated wordmark. The orange color (now deemed “Fire”) has been kept as the primary color, but the dunking woman has replaced her pony tail with a bun.

The updated WNBA logo that just went into effect this year (2019) and will have it's own rollout campaign into the 2020 season.

WNBA Rebrand: Why Change?

As a top brand development agency in Denver, we know that every rebranding effort should be well-thought out, expertly designed, and above all, have a good reason. So, why did the WNBA decide to rebrand, again? Was a second rebranding totally necessary?

The Reason

According to ESPN and Christy Hedgpeth, the Chief Operating Officer for the WNBA, the basketball league sought the help of brand development experts in an attempt to build cultural relevance around their business. For the 22 years of their existence, the WNBA has been committed to diversity, inclusion, and equality. Through their program WNBA Cares, the organization attempts to improve the quality of life for all people, focusing on social issues surrounding education, youth and family development, along with health and wellness.

Even if you don’t watch the WNBA, hopefully through this rebranding effort it will be more easily understood that the organization values community, culture, and inclusivity. It’s the hope of the organization that the new brand will amplify their mission of empowerment and inspiration, while also highlighting the strength, diversity, and multi-dimensionality of their players.

A new positive brand image with an inspirational message behind it. Who can’t appreciate that change?

Parting Thoughts From A Brand Development Agency

Celebrating diversity and inclusivity are important for any organization, especially in the U.S. And inspiring the next generation of female basketball players is never a bad thing. In addition to recognizing the cultural value of this rebranding effort, let’s review the pros and cons of this change from the perspective of a leading brand development agency.

What are some possible challenges of this rebranding?

  • Logo confusion — Both the new and old logo rely on the “Fire” color. Unless you have an eye for color differences and are aware of the rebranding, it will be easy to mix up which one is which. Especially since right now (2019), when you Google “wnba logo” there are 3 different logos that pop up.

  • Marketing costs — If you’re thinking about rebranding, take some advice from a brand development agency: consider the costs! From the marketing strategy to the graphic design and even the costs of new branded materials (e.g., letterhead, business cards, uniforms, etc.), this rebranding effort may impact their overall revenue for 2019.

  • Customer loss — Put simply: people don’t like change. Just try changing something in your office, people will resist it. With any rebranding effort, you face the potential of turning away customers.

These are some of the common challenges the best brand development agencies will make your aware of if you’re considering rebranding efforts. So, how has the WNBA been combating them thus far?

  • Established timeline — The rebrand has already been announced, but it hasn’t gone into full effect. The full rollout of the rebrand will take place in the 2020 season, giving them plenty of time to account for logo confusion and any change management plans.

  • New partnership — With the new brand, the WNBA announced a new partnership with AT&T. Not only are they aligned on values, but AT&T will be the title partner of the 2019 WNBA All-Star Game. It would be surprising if this new partnership didn’t lead to enough revenue to cover the marketing costs.

So far, it would seem that the WNBA is hitting all the right milestones of a successful rebranding campaign. Regardless, there is still plenty of time between now and the 2020 season, and plenty to do to bring the brand up to the standards they are shooting for.

We are eager to see their rebranding efforts proceed and what this means for the organization going forward.

Are you interested in refreshing your brand? Or are you starting from scratch? Regardless of where you are in the branding process, FiG Advertising + Marketing is here to help. We’re a leading brand development agency in Denver, ready to help perfect your brand.

Contact FiG today to learn more about brand development process.