New Sport Coats

With a nod to their role in revolutionary war history, the Philadelphia 76ers’ Delaware G-league affiliate announces a name change and a compelling new visual brand.

[ Updated March 30, 2018 ]

I’m a sucker for new sports team branding executions, so it’s always fun for me to spend some time looking into the background and process involved when someone creates a new team brand. And when the new brand roll-out includes a name change it adds an extra level of interest.

First impression is always a huge deal in a new brand roll out. Seeing a new logo for the first time usually creates an instant reaction in me, either thumbs up or thumbs down. So it’s rare that my initial impression changes much after that first viewing. But the Delaware Blue Coats new team branding is an exception to that rule.

Formerly the 87ers–an awkward name derived from the year Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution–the new Delaware Blue Coats name is meant to honor the 1st Delaware Regiment of soldiers that played a crucial part in the American Revolution. And, of course, they wore (you guessed it) blue uniforms.

I’m a huge history buff, so I’m always fascinated by teams who embrace the past in their branding. The new Blue Coats logo features a galloping rider in full blue patriot hat and flowing coat, palming a basketball (quite an athletic feat). The logo is splashed against a giant field of blue with white and red accents on the symbol and the type elements. A small 76ers logo hangs from the saddle to identify its NBA team affiliation. The horse and rider image symbolizes Caesar Rodney, the delegate who rode from Dover to Philadelphia to cast the tie-breaking vote for independence in 1776. This design is pretty well done with good use of simple lines and shapes for detail. One of my main objections to the logo, which caused the initial thumbs-down reaction, is the use of a bright red for the accent color. The red they selected creates readability issues due to its similar value (darkness) to the main blue hue. When colors are of similar value, the contrast between them is reduced and the effectiveness of the details is impaired. A Design 101 mistake, and a surprising one to see in a brand of its notoriety. At any reasonable distance, the red highlight details become less perceptible. Not an attribute you want to saddle a new logo with (pun intended)!


Another objection is the questionable design choice in presenting the logo against a large field of the same bright blue color. In doing so, it completely upstages the horse and rider symbol, which would benefit much more from a contrasting background color. Again, Design 101. A hasty Photoshop edit shows that a dark blue or even a neutral gray allows the logo to pop and read much better, creating a stronger visual presentation and expanding the color palette. Not perfect solutions, but you get the point…

The rest of the logo is nicely designed, with a font treatment that adds a simple historical touch without being heavy-handed.

But the strength of the new brand is in its historical concept, honoring the state’s proud history. Additionally, the word “blue” in the name not only supports the coat color, but also several Wilmington Eastern League teams (the Blue Hens, Blue Rocks, and Blue Bombers) who played in the 1960s. These add more layers of solid conceptual thinking that swayed my initial impression back toward thumbs up.

My favorite part of the roll-out, though, is the awesome video that accompanied the announcement. It’s a short, informative presentation of the concept and was incredibly well produced. It’s so good I’ve already watched it several times.

The uniforms and court design are nice, but a bit unremarkable. Although they at least went away from the obnoxious blue background. Painting their wooden floor to look like aged parchment paper would have been a really cool concept (although maybe a bit impractical). But then nobody asked me!

Overall, I came to a positive impression of the new team branding. I just wish they would tweak the colors a bit. Great potential not fully realized. Sounds like something the Founding Fathers warned us about!


Judge’s Note: New information about the Blue Coats logo raises interesting questions about its similarity to a design done previously for the Paul Revere Project by Skye Design Studios. SBJ reopening the case!

Let us know what you think! Sports Brand Jury welcomes your opinions, comments, and suggestions for future cases. If we use your idea for a future post (if we haven’t already planned on it), we’ll send you some SBJ swag as a thank you.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Russell Wilson says:

    In the age of minor league teams going for the most obnoxious rebrandings possible in an effort to stand out, this stands out for its restraint. And it’s a big step up from the youth soccer aesthetic that plagues many G-League franchises with anonymity (Charge, Drive, Swarm, Hustle, Blue, Stars, and a host of “Junior” clubs). The color details need tweaking for improved contrast, and the font may be a little too basic, but overall it’s one of the best patriot-themed logos I’ve seen. The horse/rider silhouette is sharp and stylish and will look great on its own wherever it’s used.

    1. sportsbrandjury says:

      Good appraisal. Now we just need to see if it was a little more “borrowed” than it should have been. SBJ followup post soon.

Submit a comment or suggestion to the SBJ Courtroom!