HANG TIME WEST – They were, it was explained at the February unveiling, 26 percent lighter than the traditional tank-top jerseys. They were certainly a conversation piece. They were worn in three Warriors home games the second half of the season in a combination marketing move/fashion statement/organizational message.
And, it has been proven, they were popular.
The decision by Golden State management last season to become the only team to switch to short sleeves was embraced in the final evaluation despite some public ridicule, with team official reporting the radical look accounted for 53 percent of Warriors jerseys sales.
“That was probably in line with our expectations,” said Rick Welts, the team president and chief operating officer. “It was new, and I think people liked it, obviously, because more than half the jerseys that we sold we short sleeves. I understand the math here is imperfect because our team was better as well. How much of the sales were driven by just the increased interest in the team and how much by the innovation of the short-sleeve jersey is in the eye of the beholder. From the year before to last year, we were up about 23 percent overall in jersey sales. Again, I don’t know how much to attribute that to the new jersey, I don’t know how much to attribute it to the greater popularity of the team. But in the time it’s been offered over half of the people who were making a decision to buy one of our jerseys, they were choosing the short-sleeve variety, so I think from a fan standpoint you’d say that was a success.”
Indeed, it is difficult to quantify the true value to the business side – the same number of people who made the purchase might have spent on the traditional style of the new look had never existed. As the team took off, eventually reaching the second round of the playoffs, so did fan interest, resulting in greater merchandise sales from what has been a passionate fan base even during the many lottery years.
But to an organization with the intent of being on the cutting edge, the switch for the three games, one in February and two in March, was a success no matter what.
“The sales aspect pales in comparison to the overall brand statement we’re trying to make in terms of what we want the Warriors franchise to stand for, which is we’re willing to take some risks, we’re willing to introduce some innovations that haven’t been done before,” Welts said. “For us, that was what really drove this, not the retail component of it. At the end of the day, that is nice, but it really, in the scheme of the big picture, is not a huge revenue component of a franchise. It had a lot more to do with what we’re trying to present ourselves as a team than it did with whatever retail opportunity was at hand.”
The Warriors will wear short-sleeve jerseys again in 2013-14, with the exact number of games to be announced closer to the start of the regular season. There is no indication of the next radical step, going to the new look full-time. That takes more time for league approval, though it is not being ruled out for future years.