NBA City Jerseys and the Dilution of Brand Identity

Omar Zahran
7 min readNov 8, 2023

As another batch of jerseys are released, one has to wonder if honoring a city has started to dilute the brands of the NBA’s franchises

Most companies have a color palette that they internally associate with their brand. Consider Google and its multitude of apps that may be installed on your smartphone right now. Almost all of their apps include their specific shade of blue, yellow, green, and red. The use of these colors is also present throughout their marketing and other elements to help reinforce brand identity alongside other visual elements and fonts. Most companies do this, and for good reason. You want customers to know that what they are looking at is coming from your company, to help build an association.

Major corporations aren’t the only entities that abide by these branding rules, sports teams tend to do the same. For instance, if you see Midnight Green and Gotham Green on an NFL field you would know which one belonged to the Philadelphia Eagles and other to the New York Jets. I think about these sort of brand associations as the NBA has rolled out its latest iteration of its City Jerseys, yearly changing alternate jerseys that are intended to be an homage to the city a team plays in. The league has been rolling out these jerseys since 2017, but it seems that these jerseys have departed from team colors in the name of selling new jerseys, further diluting brand identity.

The Fine Line of City and Team

The Miami Heat’s Vice City jerseys were iconic and represented the culture of Miami

A city and its basketball team often have a unique relationship. Most NBA teams these days play in the downtown areas of the cities that they represent. They play 41 home games in their cities, which helps to drive the local economy to make downtown areas more vibrant. This allows restaurants nearby to have more business and make residential development more attractive in the city. It was reported that when LeBron James played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, his presence brought in an additional $200M to the economy of downtown Cleveland.

These same teams can also be a burden to their cities when their stadiums need renovations and they ask…