Ricky Romero leaves the mound during a 1992-93 throwback uniform game in August 2009 (Photo: Chris Creamer)

Within the next few weeks the Toronto Blue Jays will be introducing their new logo and uniform set, one which borrows heavily upon what the team had sported for several seasons in the early-to-mid 1990s. In terms of branding it’s almost as if the previous 15 seasons – and three identity changes – never existed.

The Blue Jays are just the latest in a long line of teams who have rolled the dice when it comes to their tried and true look, ignored the cries of fans for years-and-years before finally caving in to public pressure and going back to a look that didn’t require a change in the first place.

Many teams radically change their look, but why? It might net the team a quick buck but that boost in revenue hardly lasts long and a fair chunk of that is split amongst the other teams in the league. It’s also worth noting that a look at the annual “top selling teams” chart will show you that those who stick to a look for many years, like the Yankees, Dodgers, and Cardinals are almost always near the top.

If the increase in revenue isn’t as drastic as one would expect then why are these changes happening at all? Some try to put a fresh look on a team which has had a few recent troubling seasons, some make a change as they move into a new stadium, while others try to bring in a new generation of younger fans with a more modern look.  But it makes you wonder if these reasons are worth the risk of alienating your fan-base while also disconnecting your team from its roots.

A team elicits the most passion, the most emotion from its fanbase during two crucial events in their history – the first is when the team is new and the fan-base is happy to even have a team regardless of how terrible they perform on the field.  The other is easy, when the team is winning. It’s during these two points in team history when fans feel the greatest emotional connection with a team and it’s eventually the point they remember back to when that heavy passion starts to fade away.  They think of the moments, the players. They think about the logo and uniforms, and they want to wear what their heroes wore.

Roy Halladay sporting the uniforms of two different teams... essentially.

We all know the story of the Blue Jays, they took the city and country by storm with their success on the field relatively early in the history of the franchise, and it was all while sporting the same logo on their cap and uniform tops.  Whether it was Bill Singer, Garth Iorg, Fred McGriff, or Dave Stewart, there was one constant and that was what uniform were these guys wearing.  You could watch a video of Doug Ault’s two opening day home runs in 1977 and then tune into BBS twenty seasons later for that night’s ballgame and you’d see Al Leiter on the mound sporting that same logo on his cap… that’s an instant connection.

What happened in the decade that followed severed that link between eras.

The first change in 1997 was a big one, but you could still conceivably make the connection from the heyday to the present day, but they blew that all away in 2004.  They didn’t even wear the same colour caps anymore. Blue became graphite and black, “BLUE JAYS” arched across the front of the jersey became “JAYS” slanted up, all it needed was an exclamation point — “JAYS!”

Toronto Blue Jays logos throughout the years (SportsLogos.Net)

It was a complete slap in the face to the history of the organization and to the fans that loved the team, effectively eliminating the passion and emotion formed from that link to that winning team way back when. I know the record books say both Jimmy Key and Ted Lilly were Blue Jay southpaws, but that’s it… it’s nearly impossible linking those eras together in your mind when compared to, say, Jim Acker and David Cone, and a large part of it is branding related.

The Blue Jays will join the ranks of the Chicago White Sox, Buffalo Sabres, New York Jets, Washington Capitals, New York Islanders, Detroit Pistons and several more, all teams who had a classic look that their fans embraced with so much love, who tried to tinker with what worked and eventually just went back to what the fans wanted.  Did they make a few bucks? Sure. Did they alienate some fans in the process? Maybe.  All I know is none of the teams that went with a radical re-design only to switch back haven’t changed since… hopefully we will see the Jays follow suit and ride this new (old) look for several decades to come.

I’ve seen the new Jays identity — logos, caps, uniforms, everything. When you see it your mind instantly takes you back to the players of 1977-1996, you feel the passion of those glorious seasons, and now suddenly there’s a real visual link between George Bell and Jose Bautista.  You guys will love it.

Comments (49)

  1. That 2003 logo is definitely the worst.

    • I think that logo is my favourite after the original. I know it’s probably more based in irony than anything else, but at least it’s something different.

      • Yes, 2003 is the worst. From an artistic point of view, it’s so unprofessionally executed it’s not funny. I don’t necessarily *hate* the most recent logo (the J-bird), but I couldn’t stand the fact that they went to black/grey as their colour scheme. WTF?? I’ll be happy to see them in uniforms with blue on them next year, let alone whatever the hell the new logo looks like.

      • I like the 2003 logo as well. I’ve never understood the hatred towards it. For me the older the logo, the better. (That is until this Friday’s release.)

  2. When taken on their own, the logos themselves aren’t bad. When placed on a hat or jersey, the modern day Jays logos are among the worst in sports IMO. Looking forward to the redesign, simply as a baseball fan.

    • The problem is that they make the logos way too big on the caps and jerseys. That’s why they look so much better out of context.

  3. You’ve seen the new identity incl. uniforms?!

    As a designer and sports logo/uni officionado, the only thing I’m hoping is that RED is kept off the uniform. I’m dead set against incorporating red into the sleeve/pant striping – people get it – Toronto is Canada’s team – we don’t need to add red as one of the primary colours. (Adding it because it’s Rogers’ corporate colour would be the absolute highest form of douchebaggery).

    I saw the leaked logo and I guess I’m *ok* with it. It’s basically a tweaked version of the original logo sans baseball – my only issue is that it’s so close to the original, why not just go back to it? I was hoping for a brand new logo – maybe something similar to the Orioles’ bird (now that the O’s are going back to their 70′s cartoon bird), but something similar to the original Blue Jays logo is fine.

    Re: red, I’m totally fine with having a red maple leaf on the uniform somewhere, as long as the rest of the uniform is based in the double-blue. Kinda like the classic Dodger look – the only red are the numbers on the front of the jersey – everything else is blue/white – classic.

    I’m also hoping they had the sense to NOT bring back the 70′s font… Let’s hope they have gone with a simple, classic typeface for ‘Blue Jays’, ‘Toronto’ and the uni numbers. Something that isn’t trendy that will stand the test of time.

    Last thing: the Jays are in the AL East – I look at it from the standpoint that they need to visually fit in to that division – the O’s, Yanks and Sox have classic looks (let’s forget about Tampa’s bland uni’s for now), so I’d like to see Toronto’s new look have a sophisticated, timeless feel that doesn’t look out of place with those ‘signature’ franchises (ok, maybe that’s a stretch for Baltimore).

    Basically, what I was hoping for was a sort of ‘Atlanta Braves’ uniform for the Jays, but substitute powder blue where the Braves have red. Dig?

    Anyways, sounds like I’m going to be mildly disappointed by the new identity, but it sounds like it won’t be the train wreck that the past 15+ years have been – the T-bird logo was bloody awful (this is why I’m against red) and then this whole ‘Black Jays’ thing….

    We’ll love it, eh Chris? We’ll see. I’m not sure I trust Rogers to get this one 100% right.

  4. Yeah… that “T” is HUGE.

  5. I think I’m the only person who ever loved the T-Bird. That dude was badass. And 2003 was a pretty awesome year for the Jays, which I attribute entirely to the T-Bird.

    • Sadly, the 2003 is better than what they have now. Although it’s pretty much the Texas “T” with Ace wrapped around it. However, it is totally indicative of the era, as Ace’s muscles clearly incriminate him of being on steroids…

    • I choose to believe The T Bird never happened. The present day logo is just ‘Meh’ to me.

      Maybe I’m in the minority, but I like the 97-02 logo the best, with the original being a distant second.

    • The T-Bird is awesome in retrospect just for the fact that 2003 was the height of the steroid era and that bird was clearly juicing.

      • No offense guys, but I thought that T Bird was the fucking lamest logo in baseball. It was embarrassing! The Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers have their amazing iconic simple hats. The Blue Jays had fucking ACE flexing his arm! They may as well have put the J Force on the hats!

  6. I have to agree with Dave – please no red? I actually wish they wouldn’t include a maple leaf as well.

    Also, I think a lot of people actually like the black and blue, myself included. The original Jays uniforms are so dated looking with the font. I have to imagine the team agrees since if they wanted to switch back to the original that would be easy to do (though that would sell a lot less merchandise as fans could wear their old stuff). I guess I don’t have much faith in a team that seems to get a lot of its marketing wrong.

    • I think it’s a given they’ll include at least a maple leaf, so I’ll give them that one — if done tastefully, I can accept it….

      I just REALLY want the uni’s to be double blue (although I’d like them to use navy/powder instead of royal blue/powder, but that may be nitpicking). I will puke if they add red to the striping a la the 90′s uniform or like the Expos uniforms of the 90′s/2000′s – I have heard the new uniforms look like the Expos which says to me that they are incorporating red (because, y’know, they are CANADA’s Team *rolls eyes*)

  7. Can’t agree more with the idea that using the “real” Jays logo provides a real connection to the great teams of yore, without feeling hokey and forced like the real-old-real-quick “Flashback Friday” promotions they hosted throughout the same years when they wore black and silver instead of blue.

    With the Jays finally on the right track and feeling an awful lot like the teams they fielded in the mid-80′s, it’s a perfect time to do this. It’s kind of silly but the new uniforms are by far the most exciting part of the offseason for me – I can’t wait to see them. It’s going to be awesome to see current players looking wearing something that will connect them to the guys I cheered for as a little kid. Here’s hoping they show them off soon!

  8. A sports logo expert post. Classy move getting blanked

  9. I feel like one of the few that actually like the current black/grey uniforms. Sad to see them go.

    Don’t particularly care for the original logos or pyjamas. They were great at the time, but the 80-90s are long over.

  10. Good on the Blue Jays for effectively bringing their old logo back. I’ve always adhered to an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset with logos…if everyone likes your design, especially if it has some sort of legacy attached to it, resist obligatory market pressure to design something that some PR firm deemed “new” and “fresh”. One can only hope that my Brewers follow suit and bring back their old ball-and-glove logo…

    • The Brewers ball and glove logo rocks and yes, they should bring it back HOWEVER I do really like their current ‘M’ logo — has a classic look and feel and is very nicely executed. Brewers have one of the better current looks, IMO.

      • The current brewers uniform is nice. Personally I think Minnesota is head and shoulders above almost everyone with their uniforms. They’re absolutely gorgeous.

        • Minnesota is great. As far as logos go – love Detroit. Love the hat (unis can look a bit weird with the cursive ‘Detroit’ on it)

    • The problem is that the Brewers new logo was brought in to associate the team with it’s ownership (Miller Breweries). You can’t buy that kind of cross-promotion. For better or worse, you’re stuck with what you’ve got unless MIller sells the team

  11. Ricky Romero looks incredible in those duds. Why mess with a good thing?

  12. No red! Not even a maple leaf. Everyone knows it’s Canada’s team, but it messed up the aesthetic of the uniform.

  13. If it’s anything like the 1977-1992 uniforms I will LOVE it. That font is the best! :D

  14. As a graphic designer I have to agree that the 2004-2010 branding was off-base from the identity of the team.

    That aside, I still think the logos from that era were well-designed, asthetically pleasing, and looked good on merchandise.

    If anything, more than the difference between the 2004-2010 and 1977-1996 branding, is when baseball started messing up the shirt-pant combos.

    Have away be all greys and home be all whites. No black-white or white-colour combos. Looks worse than even the most horrible logos. Well, almost.

  15. All of the White Sox logos are amazing. And yeah, the T bird is hilarious and I love him and I want a shirt with him on it, but I’m glad that’s not our logo.

  16. I’m a fan of the current road grays. I can definitely get behind a re-design for the main uniforms that incorporates some of the look and feel from the original logo and colour scheme, but I’d be happy if they kept the road grays as well. Classic and sharp look, I think.

  17. Not sure why we should be going back to a fashion that was designed in the 70′s, are all Jays fans hippsters except for me? I am a big fan of the current style and will be very annoyed to see this team wearing baby blue again, but I know I’m in the minority here. I just hope we dont go back to the late 90′s/early 00′s again, those were terrible.

    • I agree. I’m going to miss the current logo. Doesn’t help that I just got around to buying a jersey at the end of the season…

    • The Blue Jays should go back to their original logo and uniforms because that’s what they won with. It’s their winning tradition. Yes, the 1970′s are in the past, but you never hear Yankee fans complaining that their uniforms are from the 1910′s (or whenever the pinstripes and NY logo debuted).

      I agree that the ‘new’ 2012 uniforms shouldn’t be baby blue (that’s too 70′s!), but I think they should reinstate the original logo, color scheme (double blue, white), and the original typeface.

      • Go back to the original logo because that’s what they won with? The original uniform would look beyond dated if they went back to it. In my opinion it would be a step backwards.

        Yankee fans (or Tigers, Cubs, Red Sox, etc) don’t complain about theirs because theirs are nice to begin with. Sure, the White Sox went back to one of their original logos for their current look, but the key with that situations is that it was a nice logo to begin with. The original Blue Jays? Not so much.

        It’s not the 1970′s anymore. Bringing back the original uniforms would be a huge disappointment.

  18. Been a fan since 77, always hated the logo – looks like it was designed for a beer label- I think the white uniforms with the current logo are as sharp as any around.
    I have always thought the Cardinals have the best uniforms and I wish the Jays would copy their logo (of course this is never going to happen).

  19. I’m personally hoping they just go back to the original logo and yes, lettering. The split font is iconic. Sure it’s from the 70s, but it wasn’t typical of everything from that decade and doesn’t feel dated to me.

    If they don’t go with the original logo, it’s a shame they can’t just use the Toronto Maple Leaf Baseball Club’s logo. THAT is one badass timeless logo right there.

  20. New throwback logo/uni’s, LaCava sticking around, tremendous optimism for the future, AA being AA, there’ only one way to describe the current state of affairs:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7z192I-mQM

  21. F@$% Rogers Centre. Sky Dome is where the Blue Jays play.

  22. Just bring back the original logo. If the leaked 2012 logo is indeed the official new logo, it just looks like a facsimile of the original. Why not use the real thing? It would establish a REAL connection between Jose Bautista and George Bell.

    About the Blue Jays typeface / lettering, I love love love the original, with the cool gap in the middle. Yes, it is a 70′s look, but a futuristic one. A timeless and forward-thinking look. If it must be changed, I’d propose to keep the outline of those letters (and numbers) but fill in the gap, so that the letters are solid. Like they were on the Blue Jays ‘Toronto’ road jerseys in the late 70′s. Maybe add a white outline.
    http://sportslogos.net/images/logos/53/78/full/ton3yk6vgav3h0948zmi3gfsk.gif
    http://www.amazon.com/1979-Topps-Ashby-Toronto-Baseball/dp/B000WFJMSO

  23. For those of you who want to see the reinstatement of the original Blue Jays logo, there’s a Facebook group you can join:

    http://www.facebook.com/groups/2265558214/

  24. “Jays Tap Into Passion of Their Fans for New Identity”

    Strange title. It ought to say “OLD identity” not new, as fans want a return to the past.

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