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BSN Exclusive: Nike exec hints at return of Nuggets’ Rainbow Skyline uniform

Harrison Wind Avatar
June 8, 2018

After 30 months of meetings, focus group tests, phone calls, emails and mock-ups, the Nuggets unveiled their updated uniforms for the 2018-19 season, a new color palette and five distinct logos in downtown Denver Wednesday night in front of coaches, executives and season ticket holders.

The event was a smashing success. The new Icon, Association and Statement uniforms drew a near-unanimous approval among those in attendance and sat well with fans around the country. For those watching at home, the Nuggets purchased the entire block of television ad space between the third and fourth quarters of Game 3 of the NBA Finals to roll out their rebrand to the general public. Every TV in the region tuned to ABC got an up-close and personal look a the Nuggets’ new threads. The commercial was the most money the team has ever spent on a single television ad.

A fourth uniform — the “City Edition” — will be unveiled at a later date. While the team remains tight-lipped about the color of the City uniform, BSN Denver learned Wednesday that it will not be yellow.

“The Denver Nuggets have always welcomed change and are continually looking for ways to innovate as shown by our evolution from the ABA’s Denver Rockets, to Maxie the Miner, the iconic Rainbow Skyline, and on to the Mountain Peak and Pickaxe,” said Josh Kroenke, Vice Chairman of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment. “Each era of Nuggets basketball has its own distinct look and feel, and our amazing fans should know that this latest progression aims to celebrate our unique history while turning the page to represent the current and future era of our team.”

Courtesy of Denver Nuggets

In attendance Wednesday was Nike senior product manager for Promo Basketball Michael Smith, who’s been waist-deep in Denver’s rebranding campaign, which the Nuggets dubbed EVOLVE.

Smith spoke with BSN Denver about the rebranding process, how long it takes from start to finish, the partnership between Nike, the league and its teams, how much pull the Nuggets had in the design and if Denver’s renowned rainbow skyline uniforms could someday make an official comeback.

BSN: How long does it take for a team to rebrand and go through a significant makeover like the Nuggets did? 

Smith: The calendar that we set up with the NBA and the teams is about 30 months. It’s a full-on two-year process, but there’s probably six months of getting into the two-year process I would say.

BSN: How does that process begin?

Smith: We operate in support of the NBA and the teams. The conversation starts with the team and the NBA. The team will declare to the NBA that they want either a new identity or a new uniform design or both. Once that happens, all the requests get put into a mixing bowl. At times teams will want us to work on the identity. At times they’ll want to work on the identity themselves and they’ll just want us to contribute to the uniform part of it. And quite frankly, at times teams will want to do it all externally and on their own.

BSN: What was the partnership like throughout this process with the Nuggets?

Smith: In the case of the Nuggets, Denver has such a strong creative services team and art department that they did a lot of the work on the identity themselves. We have a really good relationship with Denver, so as that process was happening we were connected to Denver and kind of started to piece together how that identity might come together on the uniforms.

BSN: What aspect of the uniforms and rebrand was Nike directly responsible for?

Smith: The biggest part for us is probably the cut and sew lines of the uniforms and then maybe the application of some of the identity elements into those cut and sew lines. It’s really just a partnership. We have some really talented designers that can take a vision or an identity and combine that with the rich history and tradition of an organization like the Nuggets. Then they’ll be able to try and put together a uniform design that represents a modern expression of a lot of history and tradition. And if we do that well, then I think the consumers when they see these uniforms they’ll fall in love with them.

BSN: How did the color red get introduced into the rebrand?

Smith: It was mostly the Nuggets. It was a lot of back and forth about what the core power was going to be which was pretty straightforward. And then how to accentuate that core power in the best way and include colors that were meaningful in different ways based on some of the history of Denver, some of the influence of the state flag and a lot of other different things.

BSN: What is Nike’s vision for future NBA uniforms?

Smith: The vision is always the same. The vision for us to try to create the next generation of sport and how that looks to the modern-day athlete. It’s no different from our work with Denver or any other team. We’re always about just trying to find out what’s best and we use all the levers we have, the partnerships with teams, the individual players all the way down to the grassroots consumers that we talk to every day to try and figure out and predict what the future of sport looks like through the future of uniform.

BSN: Nuggets fans love the original Rainbow Skylines uniforms worn in ’80’s. Is there any possibility that those will return in the future?

Smith: I’ll say two words to you: stay tuned.

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