New uniform conference call with Ted Johnson, Wolves Senior VP of Communications and Chief Marketing Officer; Rob Lee, Vice President of Design with Adidas; and Christopher Arena, NBA VP for Apparel, Sporting Goods and Basketball Partnerships.
Ted Johnson’s Opening Statement: Today is obviously a big day in the history of the Minnesota Timberwolves. This will be the third uniform ever to be worn by the Minnesota Timberwolves. I want to first speak to the process and how everything evolved to where we are today. It’s a process that began a year-and-a-half ago when we, the team, took a look at our approaching 20th season and began to ask ourselves how we position ourselves and refresh our brand as we enter into the third decade of professional basketball in Minnesota. We very quickly engaged both the league and Adidas in the process. Obviously it’s an evolutionary process. Over the year-and-a-half we’ve been working on this, there’s been some personnel changes along with the trade of Kevin Garnett.
With these changes, it became ever more important to find ways to communicate the changing phase of the Minnesota Timberwolves. We wanted to examine how do we clearly communicate to our fans that this is a new era in Timberwolves basketball. It led us down a two-track path with the League and Adidas. The first phase was introduced earlier this summer on draft night when we unveiled our revised logo, word marks and the introduction of our new secondary logo. Now secondly, it’s the unveiling of our new uniforms. Before we get to them, I would like to take a quick moment to thank both the league and Adidas. As one may imagine, it’s an incredibly complicated process to role forward with. When you take a look at the Minnesota Timberwolves as a global brand, it is a brand of not only importance in Minnesota, but it’s a brand that lives throughout the entire World. Through this process I’ve been amazed by both the level of knowledge and expertise the league and Adidas has shown. Things such as the make-up of the fabric, some very minute details of the design – it’s been an incredible process.
The direction we gave both the League and Adidas at the very forefront was that we wanted to retain some elements of our tradition. We’re obviously a very forward-looking team and brand, which married very well with the strategies behind going into our rebuilding phase. That was the direction we gave them. What you see in front of you is the end product. There are many obvious changes that fans will see this year. If you look at the home and away jerseys, you’ll notice different uses of our wordmarks. In a nod to our past, we’re going back to the Wolves on our home jersey, much like our original jerseys from 1989. On our road jerseys, we had a long discussion about the wordmarks. There is something very Minnesotan about wanting to wear the word Minnesota on the chests. We feel a great deal of pride being Minnesota’s professional team. We wanted to walk into our opponent’s arena wearing Minnesota on our chests. That’s a departure back to the Minneapolis Laker days when they wore Minneapolis on their chest. The Twins wear Minnesota as well. That’s a tradition we wanted to pick up moving forward.
Other details that you’ll note on the uniforms, we’ve kept the tree line because it is a very unique element of our brand and who we are. But at the same time, we wanted to find a new way to bring it to life. It’s been removed from a lot of the trim but as been brought to life in these new side panels on the uniform. The font that we are using is a simpler, clearer and easier to read font. The numbers have also been slightly adjusted. Both the lettering and the font are reminiscent of the Timberwolves most recent integration, but have been tweaked and cleaned up a little bit to make them a little bit easier to read. I’m sure many of you remember the 8 on the Latrell Sprewell jerseys looked almost upside down. In the new numbering system, that look disappears as well.
We also have minor details on the back piece of the shorts, which you cannot see from either of these photos. We have the opposite word marks on our home uniforms. The Wolves are on the chest and Minnesota is on the back waistband. On the away uniforms, Minnesota is on the chest of the jersey and Wolves is on the back waistband. Also on the back neckline we display our partial primary Wolves head on both of those uniforms. With that, I’d like to turn it over to Christopher Arena, NBA VP for Apparel, Sporting Goods and Basketball Partnerships. Christopher can talk through the challenges they had in not only finding the distinguishing marks and differentiating ways to introduce new uniforms, but also from a league perspective, they have to deal with the aggregate of 30 individual teams and how they bring their uniforms and brands out across the world.
Christopher Arena, NBA VP for Apparel, Sporting Goods and Basketball Partnerships Opening Statement: I’m sure you can all appreciate the year-and-a-half process. As we start the process of re-designing a uniform, and what we do appreciate, is when we encounter teams that provide a clear direction where everyone is on the same page. It makes things easier for the League and Adidas when there is a clear path to follow. What was great in this instance was that both the business and basketball side of the Timberwolves sat down and gave us a clear path to go down. They explained to us what they liked in terms of their logos, a few elements that they wanted to highlight and capture and the direction they wanted to go.
The logo part was very smooth. In designing the uniform, much like most other uniform developments, we all played a game of ‘it looks like’. When you start to see the design evolve, you say ‘well that looks like that team’. Opinions will conjure up and we’ll see the design start to take shape. What was great in their distinctive tree lines and fonts was they really own who they are and are distinctive. It was great to have fun with that and explore the different elements that made up the final product. As a member of the league, with the Olympics going on and seeing how the U.S.A. is playing in the Olympics and being represented, this is an identity that you’re going to look at and know immediately that it’s the Minnesota Timberwolves. They’ve built though their side insert and font system a unique look that really cannot be duplicated by any other team. We think that’s special for no other teams to be able to do that.
I want to talk about color for just a second. The Timberwolves have that slate blue color that remained their primary road uniform color. Along with that is green and black, which in my opinion combines to make a mean look. They’re unified for their team. That was fun to explore as well. The logo explorations are great on the uniforms. This is one of the few teams we have where we don’t have a particular ‘logo’ as an element of the short. Really it’s a cyconic silhouette creating an image of the ‘M’ in a night sky that acts as the communication of who this team is. That’s another unique element of the Timberwolves.
That’s about it. There are a lot of neat attributes we went through over the uniform in terms of the manufacturing of the jerseys. That’s where this team really opened the doors up. We had access to the players, we did some pit sessions, and some practicing with the uniforms. You’ll see that instead of the traditional stitching of the inserts and cut lines, which we do use in some instances, you’ll something unique with the Wolves that is new to our league. The Timberwolves really adopted their style to their players and made sure they were comfortable with how we did that. I think that’s it.
Rob Lee – Vice President of Design with Adidas Opening Statement: In talking about the technology that goes into the uniform, our Adidas brand has spent a lot of time developing fabrics and innovations and reviewing our technology that is driven by athlete feedback. Our fabric technology in the new uniform is the clima technology, which is a moisture-soaking technology that helps carry the perspiration from the inside to outside. Our main focus was to make sure we could integrate that throughout the whole uniform. One of the changes Ted talked about was the tree elements. That was very important for us because we really felt that was iconic to the Timberwolves brand. To remove that from some of the uniform was critical for the weight and function of the athletes. We still wanted to keep the heritage by integrating it into a side panel while keeping it on a portion of the neckline. We made sure to keep that unique feel to it.
The next technology that we were looking at was formotion. We really tried to stay away from formotion technology is a construction technology in how the uniform is built. We wanted to keep any seams away from the arms so there wasn’t any chafing.
That brings us to the next technology, which is the welded seams. It’s a line-bonding panel on the side inserts so that when you have that complicated area that expresses the trees, it’s not inhibiting the athlete’s performance. That was really important for us. As you look at the whole process itself, it was a very interactive process with Christopher, the League, Ted and his team. It was important for us to look at the Timberwolves as a team that hasn’t changed a lot, yet has so many iconic features to their uniform. Whether it was from the typography, to the actual tree or icons that Ted alluded to. From a technology standpoint it was very important for us to look at the brand and figure out how to implement change and new technologies while no inhabiting that athlete’s performance. We did a lot of testing to make sure it didn’t do that.
Question – John Krawczynski – Associated Press: You all spoke about being on the same page with the uniform designs, have you found that to be unique? Are there other times where you butt heads a little bit, which might make for a little bit more difficult process?
Answer – Rob Lee: It’s not necessarily that other teams did not open their doors, it’s when they opened the door. In some cases, the business side of the teams wants to explore the identity fully and then bring in the basketball side. Not that they aren’t involved in the process internally, but when we’re dealing and interacting with them, they’re maybe on the outside and we’re getting to them at the last phase. We would say ‘ok, here’s where we’re at terms of the business side and we’re undecided on a few elements – the things that really effect the players -‘ and then the basketball operations may weigh in on that to make the final decision and then we move forward. All the teams involve everyone from the entire organization but usually bring in certain sides at different times. What was different in this process, was that the Timberwolves’ entire organization was involved from day one.
Question – John Krawczynski – Associated Press: How did the trade of Kevin Garnett factor in the decision to get new uniforms?
Answer – Ted Johnson: We actually began this process before we went down that road. It initially began as a way to take a look at our 20th season and figure out how to reinvigorate our brand as we look into our third decade. It was back when we published our first blueprint of the future, designed to, for the first time, clearly articulate what our vision was for this team and how we were going to rebuild with Kevin Garnett. It turned out to be more of a youth movement. That’s where it all began.
Certainly as things unfolded with K.G. and everything else, it became more important to us to clearly communicate a change and a new era of Timberwolves basketball. Logos, marks and uniforms are some of the fundamental ways that makes it very easy for the fans to recognize times are different and this really is a new era of Wolves basketball. It looks like it too; not only in the faces and bodies that wear the uniforms, but in the uniforms themselves. That was the timeline there.
Question – Neal – TwolvesBlog.com: Can someone speak to the new shopwolves.com and the changes to the new Timberwolves Online Store?
Answer – Ted Johnson: In conjunction with the uniform unveiling we’re launching our new partnership with ShopWolves.com. It’s a new partnership with Delivery Agent and is a multi-phased program. Up today should be an initial splash page that will allow fans to pre-order the new uniforms. Phase two will roll out in a little bit closer to the season in October. That will be a full-fledged online store. We really made that transition for a couple of different reasons. We found a partner that is willing to let us have a little bit more say and control of the overall look and feel of the store and online experience.
Also, Delivery Agent has a very strong track record and a great client set. Their clients also gave us confidence they would be able to keep up with emerging trends and new technologies to make sure that our fans are getting the best shopping cart experience possible. Thirdly, Delivery Agent is willing to work with us in providing the number and amounts of merchandise we want to our fans to have access to. That also launches today as well.
Question – Canis Hoopus Blog: Do these new uniforms have any similarities to the Atlanta Hawks or Dallas Mavericks jerseys? Is this a league-wide trend? Where do these similarities come from?
Answer – Christopher Arena: I think what you’re referring to is the color-blocking under the arm and the side of the shorts? It hadn’t occurred to me until you mentioned it. What’s interesting is with basketball uniforms, unlike any other uniforms, there’s less stuff to do. We’re forced to get creative with how we manipulate these tank tops and shorts. Conventional wisdom and classic styling dictates that you explore the sides of the uniform in terms of color-blocking rather than front to back, which you may recall the old Toronto Raptors uniforms had.
The WNBA back in the day explored the shoulders, Marquette has sometime on the tops of their shoulders. The U.S. Olympic uniforms made by NIKE have a really clean look that uses the sides of the uniforms and back panels for design. I would say that there are a couple of similar concepts across the entire NBA. There are some teams that are a bit cleaner, such as the Chicago Bulls who have the diamond inserts on the their shorts. But at the end of the day, you’re really exploring the sides of the inserts. What we’re focusing on is 6-8 inches below the arms, the hem up 6-8 inches from the shorts and some piping that connects it. I don’t see them as similar until you mentioned it. Yes, we do explore sides of the jerseys as classic and traditional explorations of the uniforms.
Question – Canis Hoopus Blog: What obstacles does the Oklahoma City franchise have in terms of getting this process done in only months instead of a year or so?
Answer – Christopher Arena: Oklahoma City is interesting because they have a owner who is very specific in what they want and their direction. Where in other instances, we may have the luxury of exploring options A, B and C, in this instance, we’re really only allowed to explore option A. The good thing is OKC knows exactly what they want and option A is pretty straightforward.
There’s some challenges on the manufacturing side in that their retail product will ship a little later than everyone else’s. Adidas has done yeoman efforts in terms of moving things around and working overtime to make sure their stuff gets made. That’s where the process is right now. Whereas some teams we may explore multiple design options, prototypes and test according to the players – yes, all that is going to get truncated with OKC.
Question – TwolvesBlog.com: Was the photo that leaked onto the internet a template of the jersey and what was the reaction to the fans messages after seeing the original photos?
Answer – Ted Johnson: The photo of Kevin Love was inadvertently posted, which was very unfortunate in that there were a couple of different versions out there, both of which were not accurate depictions. They provided the player at the shoot with a couple of the earlier prototypes.
That’s exactly why the photos were not to be posted. They weren’t the actual uniforms. On one of the versions, the uniform was primarily correct but the wordmark and neck were off. I then saw a different photo that had the neckline and wordmarks correct, but the color was off. There was a lot of speculation. I wasn’t necessarily surprised because I knew people weren’t looking at the actual uniforms and we did contemplate going out there and correct the misinformation. But, without being able to visually display what the actual uniform looked like and was going to be, we felt as if we couldn’t do that.
We decided to take a step back to simply monitor the situation and if it got to where we thought it was really getting out of hand, we would then step in. We knew we were only a matter of weeks away from unveiling the uniforms themselves. I wasn’t necessarily surprised because the things people were commenting on or didn’t like had been corrected through the process. Things like the wordmark – we made it bigger and bolder. People had some questions about the necklines. When watching Team U.S.A. and looking at their uniforms, I think people can see that necklines are a new trend. So, not necessarily surprised and I felt the answers to the critiques would come pretty quickly.
Question – Twolves Blog.com: Why were the bloggers invited to participate in today’s conference call?
Answer – Ted Johnson: The blogging community is ever emerging and is a community that we have tried to reach out to a couple of different times. We thought this was a great opportunity to try again, particularly in light of the inadvertent posting of the Kevin Love photo. Over the last few years we’ve done a couple of different things to invite the online media in. We’ve invited folks down to games and gave them credentials. I think it’s a league effort to understand where bloggers and the online media fit in to the overall mix. We thought this was a perfect opportunity to bring the bloggers into the loop and get them involved. Particularly in light of the Kevin Love photos sitting out there.
Christopher Arena On the Kevin Love photo: I want to quickly comment on the photo and how that process works. We do a rookie photo shoot over the summer, which all the rookies come in to take photos in their jerseys. It started out as a purpose for our trading card companies to get photos of the rookies in their uniforms. Obviously, there weren’t any action shots to be used. All to be used were still photos. These photos were to be used as the first released photos of the rookies, to replace the photos of them in their college uniforms.
That is one of many product categories that gets uniform artwork in advance of a team launching it. Our video game partners had this artwork well before this launch in preparation of their new video game unveiling. There are a few other categories that have long lead times, which we have to prepare for. All of these licensees are put under confidentiality. In this instance, for random reason, the rookie photos were leaked and were taken down immediately.