The Jazz franchise was founded in 1974 as the New Orleans Jazz. The team carried the nickname with them when they relocated to Salt Lake City in 1979, becoming the Utah Jazz. Led by Hall of Famers Karl Malone and John Stockton, the Jazz were one of the best teams in the 1990’s and reached the NBA finals two years in a row, only to be defeated by the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls.
After moving to Utah, the Jazz continued to use their purple-and-green color scheme until the mid-90’s when they shifted to a purple-and-blue motif with dark teal accents and adopted a visual identity incorporating mountains. After changing to a predominantly blue look during the latter half of the aughts, the team reverted back to its an updated version of it original uniform design template in 2010, but with an even darker blue color. The current primary logo template has been in use since 1996, undergoing two color changes since.
The current primary logo, which was introduced in 2010, is a recolor of the previous logo, which itself was a recolor of the previous logo, originally introduced in 1996. In the current version, the ‘Jazz’ wordmark appears in white on top of a dark blue roundel with ‘Utah’ at the top, encircling a green basketball that morphs into a mountain range. Each letter in the wordmark features serifs in the middle, giving it a Western feel. The stretched look and drop-shadow design of the wordmark gives it momentum, which along with the shading of each mountain peak, conflicts with the two-dimensional look of the basketball. The design is generally well-balanced in terms of color and layout.
The secondary logo, which was also introduced in 2010, is a slightly updated version of the franchise’s original primary logo, a stylized ‘Jazz’ wordmark with the ‘J’ represented by an eighth note with a multicolored basketball forming the note head. The current version of the classic Jazz logo is dark blue, green and yellow with a silver outline connecting the previously disconnected lines on the right side of each letter. The partial secondary logo is the music note on its own. The simpler design of the secondary logo makes it the stronger of the two.
The current uniforms, which were introduced in 2010, returned the Jazz to their original design template but with a slightly more modern look and are up upgrade over the previous, two-tone blue set which featured a completely unrelated wordmarks on the jerseys. All of the current jerseys feature the original ‘Jazz’ primary logo wordmark on the chest with the player number centered below. The music note logo appears on the front left leg of the shorts. The white home uniform has a blue wordmark and matching side panels with the player number in green. The dark blue road uniform has a white wordmark and matching side panels with a yellow player number. The green alternate uniform has a white wordmark with dark blue side panels and yellow player number.
The overall design is simple and classic, but feels somewhat dated because of the generic player number typeface and the use of a wordmark which originated in the 1970s.
Neither the ‘Jazz’ nickname nor the team’s color scheme hold any particular significance for the state of Utah. The ‘Jazz’ name was a meaningful choice for a franchise that originated in the birthplace of the improvisational musical genre. The organization loses points for not rebranding after their relocation to Salt Lake City (which, ironically, would become associated with ska and punk music in the 80’s and 90’s).
The primary logo template depiction of mountains is a reflection of the geography surrounding Salt Lake City but only serves to amplify the complete irrelevance of the ‘Jazz’ nickname written in front of it. The ‘J’ in the primary logo wordmark, however, cleverly resembles a saxophone.
The Jazz are one of 13 teams whose primary road uniform is blue, and are one of four teams (along with the Pacers, Grizzlies and Pelicans) whose primary color is dark blue as well as one of five (along with the Warriors, Nuggets, Pacers and Grizzlies) to wear a blue-and-yellow uniform. By contrast, the franchise’s original purple-green-and-yellow color scheme was far more distinctive. To their credit, with the introduction of their green alternate uniform, the team has moved closer towards reclaiming that distinct identity as well as becoming the only team with a dark green alternate uniform.
The jerseys use a generic varsity block sports typeface for the player number which is also used by the Knicks and Sixers.
The Utah Jazz are one of only three NBA teams (along with the Indiana Pacers and Minnesota Timberwolves) to use a state rather than a city name as their geographical indicator and one of four NBA teams (along with the Heat, Magic and Thunder) to use a singular, rather than a plural noun for the team nickname.
The Jazz get mixed marks for consistency. While the team’s use of color is consistent, the organization loses points for the lack of standardization when it comes to its logos. The Jazz use a recolored version of its mountain logo as their primary logo, yet the team uses an updated and recolored version of the franchise’s original logo—currently its secondary logo—as the wordmark on its jerseys. This confusing competition between logos muddles the branding. The typeface used for the player number matches neither of the two wordmarks.
Points to Improve
- Make the green alternate uniform the primary road option or make the white side panels on the navy blue uniform green to give the team a more unique and consistent look.
- Improve the branding consistency by retiring the current primary logo and promoting the secondary logo to primary status, since it already appears on the current jerseys and is the most widely associated with the brand historically. Then, give the ‘Jazz’ logo a more modern look.
- Choose or commission a more modern typeface for the player number that better matches the design of the lettering used in the wordmark.
- Rebrand, choosing a nickname more reflective of the history and cultural legacy of Utah or Salt Lake City.
NBA Branding Assessment Ranking
Special thanks to Chris Creamer (sportslogos.net) for the logo and uniform images.
This assessment is copyright ©2015 Brian F. Sanford. All intellectual property including but not limited to names, logos and uniforms are properties of the National Basketball Association, its member teams, ownership groups and/or organizations. All images are used for noncommercial educational purposes. No copyright infringement is intended.