Milwaukee Bucks ready to 'Own the Future' with rebranding initiative
By Tyler Brooke
Editor's Note: We're hosting a one-day $40,000 fantasy baseball league on FanDuel tonight. It's only $2 to join and first place wins $2,500. Enter by 7:05pm ET (today, July 2nd).
The Milwaukee Bucks were the most improved team in the NBA this past season, going from an uninspiring 15-67 record during the 2013-14 season to a 41-41 record this past year. Now, as the Bucks prepare to make another run, the team's marketing department has been hard at work changing the team's image.
Rebranding has become a major initiative for numerous teams in the Association over the past few years. Along with the Bucks, teams like the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Hornets have been rebranding by introducing new logos, uniforms and court designs.
While the fans only tend to see the rebranding efforts as soon as they are released, the initiatives usually take years before they're ready to be released.
"Generally, going through a rebrand with the NBA is a two-year process from the standpoint of getting production pieces in the pipeline and really properly going through everything," said Dustin Godsey, the Vice President of Marketing for the Bucks. "We were a little bit of an exception. We were able to move through the process with the league a bit more quickly.
"All of the work [to rebrand] had to be done and scheduled out before last season even began. It so happened the team played along, had a great year, and we were able to capitalize on that momentum at the end of the year as we unveiled and went through."
Godsey credits new ownership for so quickly jumping on with the rebranding initiative. In April of 2014, Herb Kohl sold the team to Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry. In January, five more investors joined the ownership group, which seems to have every intention of keeping the team in Milwaukee, embracing the "Own the Future" motto.
The rebranding process took off in April when the Bucks unveiled their new logo for the 2015-16 season, changing the color scheme from green and red to green and cream.
According to Godsey, the vision for the new logo was to find a comfortable blend between old and new. As one of about half the NBA teams to win a championship in its current city, the Bucks team felt that it was important to somehow pay tribute to past teams.
"We certainly wanted to tie in that past, but also in a really forward looking way represent a new direction," Godsey said. "We want this to be, while at the same time being modern, to be something that can feel timeless and move forward."
That forward-looking mentality is fitting for a team with so much young talent. Players like Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Michael Carter-Williams have given the Bucks a young group of talent to work around in the coming years. With new players, coaches and ownership, the Bucks found an ideal time to begin changing their image.
With a younger team and a league continuing to attract a younger audience, the Bucks have embraced social media to assist with their rebranding efforts.
"Social media is a lot tougher to control, but it's a very small price to pay for the fact that you are able to get such instant feedback and really communicate on an individual basis," Godsey said. "Social media was a huge part of our rollout efforts and equal in our planning of the unveiling events."
In June, the Bucks unveiled their new jerseys, showcasing blue as the new tertiary color. Godsey hinted at potential for blue to have more of a presence in future alternate jerseys, but didn't give any specific details.
"The previous logo wasn't super poppy, the colors were red and green and kind of difficult to work with," Godsey said. "We didn't have a real strong hold on our brand, so we did want something that was modern and certainly looked good on gear."
The latest release for the Bucks came just a couple of weeks ago when the team unveiled the new court design at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
However, the Bucks soon might not be playing at the same arena they've been in since 1988. The BMO Harris Bradley Center is one of the oldest active venues in the NBA, but last month, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker announced a plan for a new $500 million arena in downtown Milwaukee.
While there are still plenty of questions surrounding the proposed stadium and downtown renovation as a whole, the Bucks are excited about a potential new venue.
"Our fan experience is a huge priority for us now, even before we go into a new building," Godsey said. "What we want, what our vision is with the new building, it's not about the 41 games we play here, its about turning that arena and downtown Milwaukee into a year-round destination."
The Bucks are hoping to have as successful a first year with their rebranding efforts as the Atlanta Hawks had this past season, especially when it comes to merchandise. Halfway through last season, the Hawks had increased online merchandise sales by a staggering 461 percent.
Of course, with a new logo and color scheme, the Bucks are prepared for plenty of new merchandise for their fans.
"Throughout the summer we are going to unveil new merchandise up until the start of the regular season," Godsey said. "We have fun projects in place that incorporate the players and getting their personality and putting that into what we are doing for the brand."
So much has changed in Milwaukee over the past year. With new rising stars, a new head coach, new ownership and a new look, there's a reason the Bucks are so excited to "Own the Future".
Tyler Brooke is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. His work has been featured on Bleacher Report, ESPN.com, CNN.com, Yahoo! Sports and a number of other sites. Follow Tyler on Twitter @TylerDBrooke.