Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Primary Colors

Paul Lukas has an interesting article in today's Uni Watch. A reader has sent in the NFL's proposed rules for alternate uniforms:

A few days ago I received a note from reader Zach Smith. He sent along a PDF of what he said was an internal NFL memorandum that had been shown to him by a friend who works for the league. I've done a bit of checking and have confirmed to my satisfaction that the memorandum is legit.

Zach has asked that I not show the memo itself but says it's fine to describe and discuss its contents. His own description is a good place to start:
[The memo is about proposed] changes to the NFL's alternate uniform rules. As I'm fairly certain has been covered before, the rules currently allow teams to wear their alternate uniform twice in the regular season and once in the preseason, but the NFL is looking to tighten those restrictions.

Here’s what they're proposing:

• Alternate uniforms would be limited to two uses in the regular season (eliminating the preseason option).

• Alternate uniforms would only be used in Sunday-afternoon games (not prime-time or nationally televised games).

• Alternate uniforms would only be worn prior to the start of the "flexible scheduling" portion of the schedule, which begins in Week 10.

The rationale appears to be an attempt to "protect" the team's brands [specifically, the memo says that the increasing use of alternate uniforms could "potentially compromise a club's national brand equity" — PL], although given most of these third jerseys' popularity with teams and their fans, I tend to think the real reason is that the NFL doesn’t want a casual fan to turn on a Sunday/Monday night game and find the Jets wearing navy and gold and have no idea who's playing. An unfortunate change, in my opinion.
One small detail in the memorandum that Zach didn’t mention: The proposal would also limit alternate uniforms to games played in the United States.
I think these rules look pretty good, although they would seem to preclude the throwbacks commonly worn by the Lions and Cowboys on Thanksgiving. It may be, in Lukas's words, "typical NFL micromanaging," but I'd rather see the NFL's style than the free-for-all we have in baseball. Uniforms are the core of a team's branding.

If the NFL's motivation is to ensure that "a casual fan (doesn't) turn on a Sunday/Monday night game and find the Jets wearing navy and gold and have no idea who's playing," then I'm all for it. Good for them.

One could make a case that there is a time and place for things like alternate uniforms (even the ones created as marketing stunts). The larger stages, however, shouldn't be that time. Wear the funky alternates in front of your home fans, but when the nation's watching, wear your best look. If that's really your alternate, then adopt it as your primary.

Lukas also adds some insight to 2012 and beyond:
The real news here, it seems to me, is that the league's shift from Reebok to Nike isn’t going to bring any drastic changes. Even though this memo is just a proposal (Zach's source at the league isn’t sure whether it's been voted on or approved yet), its wording makes it pretty obvious that the NFL is way too conservative, way too committed to its core brand identities, to allow major tinkering by the swooshkateers. An NCAA-style parade of alt designs? Not gonna happen.

Which, incidentally, is exactly what I’ve been saying all along. People can make all the crazy-ass mock-ups they want, but the NFL is still gonna look like the NFL in 2012. Bank on it.
Agreed. As much as Nike has manhandled the college teams they outfit (with a few notable exceptions), their European soccer designs have been remarkably respectful of the teams' history. That's why I'm not terribly concerned about their taking over the league-wide uniform contract (not to mention that I'm still hoping Nike will solve the little uniform problem the Packers have struggled with in recent decades)

And again, if you're not reading Uni Watch every single day, you should be.

(h/t: Paul Lukas, Uni Watch)

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