First impressions are vital for franchises and businesses. Besides ticket sales, merchandise was the only way for fans to interact with their sporting franchise before the advent of social media. Merchandise sales provide great feedback on fan satisfaction with the performance of certain players and the design of the apparel.
This paper will focus on the mechanics of human sensing, perceiving and processing in regards to color. The specific interface we will focus on is that of professional sports franchises who use orange as the predominant color in uniform and logo design.
Color plays a vital role in marketing. Satyendra Singh, of the University of Winnipeg, wrote: “People make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products. About 62 to 90 percent of the assessment is based on colors alone.”(Impact of color on marketing) Color affects our moods and feelings. Not only as consumers but, really, as humans. When we first see a color we see just that, color. Then the mind begins processing the color. We start to recognize the hue and saturation of the color. How light or dark it is. Once we realize the color we then process it. Take a traffic light for example. When we see red we stop. When it turns green we go. When it is yellow we have one of three options: proceed with caution, prepare to stop, or punch it and try to beat the red.
What happens to people when they see the color orange? Why is it so prevalent? Why do some chose to wear it? What is this reaction that people get from orange stimuli? Kate Smith of Sensationalcolor.com had this to say about orange, “Orange, a close relative or red, sparks more controversy than any other hue. There is usually a strong positive or negative association to orange and true orange generally elicits a stronger ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ response than other colors. Fun and flamboyant orange radiates warmth and energy.”(All About the Color ORANGE) She goes on to suggest that orange can affect us physically. It can stimulate activity and appetite. She believes that orange can encourage socialization as well. Perhaps she should have consulted with Mark Zuckerberg while conducting her study.
Marketers, designers, managers, business owners, etc. all need to be conscious of the effects of color when creating their respective product. Many colors evoke various reactions and every color will be perceived differently by each pair of eyes that processes it. The color red, for example, “plays a significant role in communicating the fertility of females and the dominance of males throughout the animal kingdom. The red effect is sensitive to context, but likely generalizes to products and activities that strongly relate to female sexuality (e.g., apparel) and male dominance (e.g., sports cars).”(Lidwell, p. 202)
So, what is the orange effect then? Native Americans associate orange with “kinship.”(Smith) It is the national color of the Netherlands, as previously stated. “In China and Japan, orange is used to symbolize happiness and love.”(Smith) Scent It.com says the aromatherapy benefits are, “Cheering, Refreshing, Uplifting, Cleansing, Rejuvenating, Energizing, Sensual, Stimulating.” Not all connotations are positive however. Orange is associated with “‘gluttony’ in Christianity.”(Smith) The color is certainly associated with prison or jail via jumpsuits. Agent Orange was a deadly chemical weapon used during the Vietnam War. “Dioxin, the toxic compound in Agent Orange, has been shown to cause cancer, birth defects, and organ dysfunction.”(Smith) It may also be associated with Halloween or Paganism.
In the NFL, the Denver Broncos announced in October of 2011 that they would like to go back to orange as their primary home jersey color. Currently the Broncos’ home jersey is a navy blue with flashy orange accents around the numbers and letters as well as an orange collar and orange, fang-like stripes along the side of the jersey that continue down a white pant. Denver has alternate jerseys that are the exact inverse of the blue ones. These vibrant burnt orange jerseys are worn sparingly. Usually the team dons them for primetime games, rivalries or inclement weather conditions. This change in uniform will certainly trigger nostalgia in long time fans, as well as attract and retain new members of “Bronco Nation.”
Until 1997, The Denver Broncos wore orange jerseys and powder blue helmets. The team logo was a simple, white upper case “D” that had a rearing white horse with an orange mane and tail. As a result, the Broncos defense became affectionately known as “The Orange Crush” during the 1977 season when Denver made the first of its five Super Bowl appearances. According to an October 3rd, 2011 article on USA Today’s website, “The Orange Crush will be back in full effect in 2012.” The team won back-to-back Super Bowl championships the last time the Denver Broncos redesigned their identity. Hopefully this change will yield the same result.
“This is what our fans wanted,” said Joe Ellis, president of the Denver Broncos, in an early October interview with the Denver Post regarding the change in attire. Broncos’ fans are not the only ones fond of the color of the rind that does not rhyme. The Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns all flaunt orange. The Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants are well known for rocking orange. Three of the six professional sports franchises in New York (Knicks, Mets, Islanders) use orange in their color combination. Staying in Gotham, Syracuse University is clad in orange. Their team nicknames are even the “Orangemen” and “Orangewomen.” The universities of Miami (FL), Tennessee and Texas at Austin all wear orange. Tim Tebow, quarterback of the Denver Broncos, is familiar with wearing orange being an alumnus of the University of Florida. The Houston Dynamo of the MLS and, across the pond, Spanish soccer team F.C. Barcelona can both be seen in orange. The national soccer team of the Netherlands patriotically wears orange in representation of their nation. The NBA claims five orange franchises: the Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat, Charlotte Bobcats, Oklahoma City Thunder and the aforementioned New York Knickerbockers. Orange is so popular in sports that you can find quizzes on the Internet just for teams that wear it! (Sporcle.com)
So many factors come in to play when deciding what color to make something. This makes it very tricky for an entity like a sports franchise to promote merchandise globally. Consumers in a foreign country could know very little about the sport or the history of the franchise. When teams design merchandise (jerseys, t-shirts, hats, jackets, etc.), they must devise a palette that is pleasing to the greatest common denominator. “There is no universal symbolism for different colors—different cultures attach different meanings to colors.”(Lidwell, p. 48) They must consider where their product will be sold and who might see it, all without abandoning their fan-base’s preferences. They also need to design a product that will be well received by the casual consumer and avoid negative connotation.
Singh, S. (2006) Impact of color on marketing. Management Decision, Vol. 44 Iss: 6, pp.783 – 789, Retrieved from www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=1558119&show=abstract
Smith, K. (2012) All About the Color ORANGE. Retrieved February 13, 2011, from www.sensationalcolor.com/color-messages-meanings/color-meaning-symbolism-psychology/all-about-the-color-orange.html
Can you name the Orange Major Sports Teams? Quiz. Retrieved February 13, 2011, from www.sporcle.com/games/Korkoala/orange_teams_2
Klis, M. (2011, Oct 3) NFL approves Broncos’ switch back to orange uniforms. Retrieved February 13, 2011, from www.denverpost.com
Davis, N. (2011, Oct 3) Broncos going back to orange jerseys as primary home uniform. Retrieved February 13, 2011, from www.usatoday.com
Lidwell, W., et al. (2003) Universal Principles of Design. Beverly, MA: Rockport Publishing.