The Toronto Raptors were founded in 1995 as part of the NBA’s expansion into Canada, along with the Vancouver Grizzlies. After the Grizzlies relocated to Memphis in 2001, the Raptors became the league’s only team north of the border.
The Raptors’ original visual identity consisted of a purple-and-red color scheme, a logo depicting a red dinosaur dribbling a basketball and purple uniforms with lightning bolt pin stripes and the red dinosaur on front. The team introduced simpler, more modern uniforms in 1999 and removed purple from their color palette in 2006 to emphasize the team’s status as Canada’s lone NBA team.
The Raptors updated their visual identity for the 2015-16 season, unveiling a new logo in December, 2014 and new uniforms in August, 2015. The team’s official colors are red, silver, black, white and gold.
The primary logo is a silver basketball with claw marks contained in a black roundel with a red outline and ‘Toronto’ and ‘Raptors’ in white. The partial primary logo consists of the basketball and the team name or just the basketball by itself. The alternate logo is a recolored version of the primary logo featuring a gold basketball and a silver outline. The logo is an extension of the team’s relationship with rapper and Toronto native Drake who, in addition to running his own clothing line, October’s Very Own, which often features gold-on-black designs, serves as the Raptors’ global ambassador.
The clawed basketball design is an evolution of the Raptors previous alternate logo depicting a raptor footprint. The simple design effectively conveys the ‘Raptors Basketball’ brand. The new minimalist logo is a massive upgrade over the Raptors’ previous cartoonish design, but logo is poorly balanced in terms of color and the lettering is awkwardly arranged inside.
The current uniforms are a modest revision of the style first introduced in 1999. The Raptors have become the first team to abandon Nike’s popular wishbone-collar template in favor of a more traditional design with a more traditional striped V-neck collar. The side panels have been replaced with stripes, but retain the previous double chevron, only inverted to point upward. All of the jerseys have the ‘Raptors’ wordmark arced across the chest.
The sides of the shorts feature a colored horizontal band on either side that joins with a vertical stripe to create a ’T’ which pairs with the clawed basketball logo beneath it to spell out ’T.O.’ or ’T dot’ for the city of Toronto. The front of the waistband features a maple leaf matching the color of the lettering and numbering on the jersey.
The white home uniform has black text outlined in silver with red and silver trim. The red road uniform has white text outlined in silver with black and silver trim. The primary alternate uniform is black with white text outlined in silver and has red and silver trim while the ‘Drake’ alternate has white text outlined in gold with gold and white trim.
The uniforms are a minor downgrade from the Raptors’ previous set because they have adopted a less modern template and display the team name in an old-fashioned rainbow arc. The uniforms are also less well-balanced in terms of color and layout. The black text on the home uniform and the white text on the primary road and alternate uniforms are only complemented by the minuscule maple leaf on the shorts. The partially colored waistband and the vertical stripe that abruptly stops three quarters of the way down the leg create a disjointed look, which is further exacerbated by the circular nature of the clawed basketball logo below it. The only improvement from the previous uniform set is the removal of the rear colored panel on the shorts that joined with the side panels to give create an odd, dinosaur-haunches look.
The ‘Raptors’ name, an abbreviation of the dinosaur species ‘velociraptor’, was chosen because of the popularity of the movie Jurassic Park at the time the team was founded. The name holds no significance for Toronto or Canada since the velociraptors existed in modern day China and Mongolia.
The team’s predominantly red and white color scheme are meant to reflect the colors of the Canadian flag. The team’s slogan, We The North, reflects the Raptors’ status as Canada’s lone NBA franchise. The chevrons on the side of the jersey point upward to connect with the We The North campaign.
The Raptors are one of five teams whose primary road uniform is red, and one of eight to wear black as an alternate. They are also one of three teams (along with the Cavs and Thunder) with two alternate uniforms.
ptors are one of five teams whose primary road uniform is red, and one of four to wear black as an alternate.
The Raptors are one of two teams to use gold (not yellow) in their color palette and the only team to have an alternate color (gold) which is not part of their standard visual identity.
The team’s custom ‘We The Letters’ typeface is a fairly generic-looking varsity block design, far less distinct than their previous lettering. The custom ‘We The North’ and ‘We The Numbers’ typefaces are more unique.
The Raptors’ logo is similar in concept to the Grizzlies secondary logo.
The Raptors get mixed high marks for consistency. The arc of the letters on the primary logo is replicated exactly in the layout of the letters of the ‘Raptors’ wordmark on the jerseys.
The team has created three different custom typefaces for the current visual identity. The logo and uniforms use ‘We The Letters’ for the lettering and ‘We The Numbers’ for the player numbers. Another custom typeface is used for the team’s We The North slogan.
All of the uniforms are color variations on the same template. However, the inclusion of the alternate gold color for some applications creates a separate brand based around the team’s partnership with Drake.
Points to Improve
- Redesign the uniforms, balancing the color and layout to give the uniform a cleaner, more modern look.
- Rebrand, choosing a nickname more reflective of Toronto’s history and culture. One possibility would be to revive the Toronto Huskies brand, one of the NBA’s founding franchises.
- Choose or commission a single modern typeface to be used across all applications including the logo and uniform wordmarks, player numbers, etc.
NBA Branding Assessment Ranking
Special thanks to Chris Creamer (sportslogos.net), Conrad Burry (conradburry.com) and Jordi Kodrinsky (Twitter / Flickr) for the logo and uniform images. Other images have been taken from the team’s website or Twitter feed.
All writings contained herein are 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.