The Charlotte Bobcats will go purple-and-teal when they become the Hornets next season – as it was in 1988 and as the fans want it to be again.
Bobcats management revealed the color scheme in an exclusive interview with the Observer. The purple-and-teal scheme will be accented by black and light shades of gray and blue.
A formal announcement by the team is expected later Sunday.
Returning to the teal-and-purple look in the original Alexander Julian-designed uniforms seemed a no-brainer after the Bobcats received permission from the NBA in July to adopt the Hornets nickname. The original Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002 and switched nicknames to the Pelicans this season.
“We thought it was very important for us to listen to our fans and the overall community. There seemed to be an overwhelming desire to pay homage to the legacy of the Hornets, from their time here before,” Bobcats President Fred Whitfield said. “We listened to our fans, and that’s what led us in this direction.”
Pete Guelli, the Bobcats’ chief marketing officer, said polling of the Charlotte market indicated about 80percent support for a name change to Hornets, and support for bringing back teal-and-purple ran nearly as high.
One interesting point about the accent colors: that “light blue” looks an awful lot like Carolina blue, a color Bobcats owner Michael Jordan wore as one of the Tar Heels’ all-time best players.
“We understand it’s an important color to the region,” said Guelli of the blue shade. “It scored high in our survey and was part of the original Hornet color palette.”
The Bobcats are still working on new uniforms and logos. While no final decisions have been made, next season’s uniforms probably won’t be replicas of the originals, with pleats and such.
“Clearly there would have been some evolution for any brand over 23 years. There would be some evolution of what the look would be,” Whitfield said. “We’re being very deliberate to make sure our uniform design is something our fans would be excited about, and also have a current look and feel.”
Julian, a national clothing designer who grew up in Chapel Hill, advocated the teal-and-purple color scheme when then-team owner George Shinn asked him to design the prototype uniforms. By 1995, Hornets gear was the hottest seller in the NBA. Charlotte Hornets “legacy” items sold by the NBA are still big sellers among young consumers.
The Bobcats have already seen new revenue from the name change. There’s been an uptick in season-ticket sales – an 89percent renewal rate, plus about 2,000 new season-ticket equivalents.
Team management is waiting for league approval to start selling more Charlotte Hornets gear in the team store at Time Warner Cable Arena.
“Without a doubt, we can attribute (improved ticket sales) to the rebrand. People want to be here for the first season of the Hornets,” Guelli said.
“We’re working every day with the league to start selling Hornets gear, even before (the rebranding at the start of next season). Right now we can sell the ‘Heritage’ products. Next is (merchandise) with the new colors and eventually the logo.”
Things like the new logo and mascot are complicated issues because that is intellectual property the New Orleans franchise was using as recently as April. The Bobcats are trying to strike a balance between ramping up their own plans without complicating New Orleans’ transition to the Pelicans name and look.
Just getting the right shades of teal and purple was a chore involving the Bobcats, the NBA office and the hundreds of companies that sell NBA-licensed apparel. Bobcats management rounded up old Hornets gear and saw eight variations on what was then called teal. That won’t cut it in 2013.
“We needed to establish one shade of teal, so that 400 (licensees) could all provide the same color products. We worked so closely with the NBA to establish a color that could be reproduced on any product and taken to retail,” Whitfield said.
“If you look at the purples in the NBA, there are three or four different shades. We had to meet as a group, get our owner involved and say, ‘What shade of purple?’ Because it’s not all just purple.”
The franchise is budgeting about $4million to change everything inside and outside the arena from Bobcats to Hornets over the next 11 months. The big things include resurfacing the game and practice courts and deciding what replaces Rufus as the team mascot. There are numerous other issues, like renaming the dance team from the Lady Cats or changing the team’s limited liability corporation (from Bobcats Sports and Entertainment).
The Bobcats have identified 250 aspects of the arena – everything from the signage along the video board to murals of the players in uniform to Bobcats orange waste cans – that must be replaced before the 2014-15 season.
“We have an obligation to do this thing right,” Guelli said. “When people walk into the arena in the fall of 2014, they need to know this is no longer a Bobcats experience. It’s a Hornets experience.”