The 2017-18 will be remembered as the season the NBA took a right turn and in the rearview will only be the good old days of “home – away” jerseys. The new 1 Billion deal signed between NIKE and the association in June 2015 was a shift of mentality. A new approach from the league. A daring move from Adam Silver, the NBA Commissioner. A XXI century move.
“This partnership with Nike represents a new paradigm in the structure of our global merchandising business. As our exclusive oncourt apparel provider, Nike will be instrumental in our collective efforts to grow the game globally while applying the latest in technology to the design of our uniforms and oncourt products.”, stated Silver in 2015.
Ok. So what are we talking about here? Key words: “new paradigm”, “global” and “latest in technology”. We hear you.
Right from the get go, NIKE was very promptly to show that a new era was now in place. So long home (white) and away (colourful) jerseys. The 2017-18 season that it’s taking place as I type, is the first one of NIKE partnership, and so it’s also the first one of the paradigm change. That’s right, one of Adam Silver’s key words.��As part of its efforts to change the jersey paradigm in the league and concomitantly expand the global appeal of the NBA (I know, “global”, the second key word), NIKE has introduced a series of alternate jerseys for the NBA teams to wear. In August, Nike unveiled the “Association” and “Icon” editions for each team, while the “Statement” editions were revealed in early December 2017. On Wednesday 27 December 2017, Nike announced the release of its “City Edition” uniforms for 26 of its teams, with the remainder of the jerseys for the remainder of the league’s teams to be released at a later date.
The brand has put a lot work and thought into it and so they also et us know the reasoning behind each edition. The city Edition uniforms idea for instance was to create a jersey that uses a unique element from the teams and cities in their design. The jerseys reference everything from monuments to franchise legends and Nike reportedly worked directly with the league and each NBA team.
The Memphis Grizzlies has a black and white colour scheme bringing the “I Am A Man” signs from the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968. The Philadelphia 76ers has a script resembling the Declaration of Independence. And the Washington Wizards jersey contains a marble pattern on each side of the jersey to mimic the Washington monument. Pretty cool.
Each team now has four jerseys on any given game-night to choose from. Home jerseys are now referred to as “Association” jerseys, while the traditional away jerseys are the “Icon” jerseys.
Obviously, this new approach has a marketing side on it too. Now every team has even more merchandise to sell and every fan has at least 4 more reasons to run to their local store and spend some money on merchandise. The more items available to sell, the more widespread the league will be, and so on… you get the picture.
From the Marketing standpoint it sure looks like a win, both for the league and for the brand. However, things have been tricky since opening night when LeBron James Jersey got ripped off as the Cavaliers superstar was grabbed by Jaylen Brown on a routinely play.
After few other cases occurred the NIKE CEO Mark Parker stated: “Nike has always put the athlete at the center of everything we do and we have worked hard to create the most advanced uniforms in the history of the NBA. They are lighter and deliver great mobility and sweat wicking characteristics, and the feedback from players has been overwhelmingly positive. However, during game play we have seen a small number of athletes experience significant jersey tears. We are very concerned to see any game day tear and are working to implement a solution that involves standardizing the embellishment process and enhancing the seam strength of game day jerseys. The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance and we are working with the NBA and teams to avoid this happening in the future.”
That’s where the third key word comes into place: latest technology.
Nike best engineers and designers have been focusing their re-examination of the brand new jerseys on three areas: movement, thermoregulation and fit. Working alongside third-party sport analysts, NIKE got to the conclusion that no other athlete moves like a NBA athlete does, and so, that requires extra care.
During an average game, a player may cover more than four miles with full-speed bursts that last about 1.6 seconds. An athlete can change directions every two seconds, totalling 1,000 per game. Some jump up to 42 times with an average liftoff time of .16 seconds. “Basketball is a game of transition more than any other sport,” says the CEO, Parker. “A player will go from sitting on the bench to sprinting top speed to jumping as high as he can within seconds.”
NIKE took body digital scans to evaluate sweat and contact zones and tried to comprehend where basketball players need full range of motion. That’s called “atlas mapping”. “We’ve used atlas mapping before, but this is the first time we’ve done it specifically for NBA athlete body types,” says Parker.
“You’ll see guys constantly trying to pull their jerseys off of their chest — LeBron does it all the time,” explains Parker. “So, we realized that we needed to figure out a way for the jersey to wick the sweat without it being too baggy or too tight.”
Two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash always interested en every aspect of the game noted: “Temperature is huge. When a fabric breathes better and absorbs sweat better you can stay warm — but not be too warm on the court.” In this case, by helping to improve temperature control, the maps also created a solution for the way the jersey feels. “Typically, the result of the game is decided in the last five minutes, so the last thing you want to do is fuss with your jersey during that time,” says Parker.
In order to obtain the best answer possible to new jerseys,NIKE went straight the source and asked NBA players to do some apparel tests and asked their feedback.
“These guys are superhuman size, so you have to make something that works for KD at 6’9” and 240 pounds, LeBron at 6’8” and 250 pounds, Isaiah Thomas at 5’9” and 185 pounds and everyone in between,” says Parker.
With few bumps on the road, sure, but this NIKE/NBA partnership does look good.
New paradigm, global merchandising and latest technology.