Hawks target younger market with new uniform design

ATLANTA — Kyle Korver got his wish.

Standing onstage at the Atlanta Hawks’ new uniform unveiling at Philips Arena, the veteran sharpshooter reminisced on a team trip to London a couple years back, before the franchise records or Eastern Conference finals appearance or the organization’s full-scale brand reboot.

"I remember we had some event we got to go to and there were these freelance painters and they were doing all this amazing stuff. And I was sitting there watching it and I was like, ‘Man, our stuff is so boring,’" Korver said. "I like the red-white-and-blue (uniforms), it was great, but I just felt like Atlanta was a little more than that. ‘We gotta bring back the Pac-Man. The Pac-Man, that is cool.’ This Hawk? I don’t really know.

"I had no idea that all of this was in the works."

The Hawks dropped the curtain on their innovative new uniforms on Wednesday afternoon, dramatically altering the franchise’s color scheme, traditional uniform pattern designs and, in the words of the organization’s key executives, the organization’s brand in general. While still prominently (and smartly) featuring the Pac-Man logo, the Hawks ignored tradition and instead aimed for cutting-edge.

The new color scheme — torch red, Georgia granite and volt green is the official palate — is a 90-degree left turn from traditional, but the changes were made with one demographic in mind. And it wasn’t the Dominique Wilkins generation of fans.

The Hawks have been brainstorming and testing the new uniforms, designed by Rare Design’s Rodney Richardson, a former Nike designer, in focus groups for more than a year. CEO Steve Koonin even conducted unofficial focus groups at his house with friends of his two children, both of whom are in their 20s. (That particular group reinforced the team’s extensive research, emphatically pushing for more volt green, Koonin said.) And perhaps the most important millennial-dominated group was in the team’s own locker room.

"It’s all about next-generation Atlanta Hawks. Nobody wants to see me wearing a jersey. Nobody," Koonin said. "As we said, our customers are our players. They’re in their 20s, they’re young, they’re fashionable, they’re dynamic. We showed them the colors last year in October when we took them through a preview, and there was an audible gasp when we displayed the jerseys.

" … Our ticket buyers are the youngest ticket buyers in sports: 37 years old is average. This is talking directly to that generation. So while I appreciate what my peers think, it’s really about what the kids think."

Koonin and the Hawks’ head of marketing Peter Sorckoff both mentioned that the volt green addition is a direct nod to the team’s blue-and-lime-green uniforms of the early 1970s. It’s not an unprecedented aesthetic element.

"The color was really inspired by our heritage and the days of Pistol Pete Maravich in the early ’70s. The lime green was used in 1970 really to separate the Atlanta Hawks from the St. Louis franchise," Sorckoff noted. "So we took inspiration specifically from that."

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When the logos, colors and uniforms were shown to players during training camp, they were given a direct say in potential changes, another anecdote for coach and team president Mike Budenholzer’s players-first mantra. Budenholzer and new general manager Wes Wilcox attended Wednesday’s reveal, but watched from the sidelines as Korver, Jeff Teague, Kent Bazemore and Mike Muscala served as de facto models.

Korver immediately jumped at the opportunity to alter the design.

"The original plan had a really wide shoulder and I was really against it," said Korver, who was still wearing a walking boot following offseason ankle surgery. "As a shooter, I hate — I wore (a uniform) like that in Philly and I was always like pulling on it all the time trying to get this (shoulder) free."

Richardson’s final design features five nods to innovation, a few of which are NBA firsts: a triangulated or V-shape pattern design, asymmetrical short design, that volt green color, mix-and-match uniforms and customized socks, shoes and laces that incorporates uniform design.

"When I got here we had six focus areas, and one of the first ones and most important was to reinvent the look and the brand of the Atlanta Hawks," Koonin said. "And we started working immediately."

The first few phases are now officially in the books, and just in time.

Basketball takes center stage this week in Atlanta. Aside from the uniform unveiling, the Hawks will formally introduce their new, Tony Ressler-led ownership group on Thursday morning, add talent through the NBA Draft on Thursday night and likely introduce their draftees on Friday. All of this comes on the heels of parting ways with former GM Danny Ferry and the promotions of Budenholzer and Wilcox — not to mention the potentially momentous free agency period starting next month.