Coming off the success of the Toronto Raptors’ “We The North” brand campaign, the pressure was on the organization to deliver for the 25th anniversary of the NBA franchise.
The marketing bosses with the team’s parent company Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment are confident that “Raptors Two Five” will do just that.
“It’s one thing to be relevant but relevancy is continually renewing,” said MLSE senior marketing director Jerry Ferguson. “There’s no complacency because you continually have to refresh and do something different.”
The “Two Five” image features a right hand with two fingers making a victory sign and a left hand with all five digits extended.
“For us the logo becomes an opportunity for fans to participate and it doesn’t have to be rigid,” Ferguson said. “It’s more flexible and it’s more participatory. That’s why we think it’s cool.”
It’s part of wide-ranging promotional plans released Thursday night that will celebrate the Raptors’ history. An 18-foot “Two Five” installation will be unveiled Saturday during the city’s all-night Nuit Blanche art festival, which begins Friday evening.
The regular-season opener Oct. 22 against the visiting New Orleans Pelicans will be devoted to the ring ceremony and unfurling of the championship banner.
The next game at Scotiabank Arena, on Oct. 28 against the Orlando Magic, will be the first of six ”95 Rewind” nights. The Raptors will wear white and purple dinosaur jerseys and play on a 1995-style hardcourt.
With the Grizzlies also celebrating their 25th anniversary, the teams will wear throwbacks in Memphis on March 28 and on the return date in Toronto on March 30.
Other ”95 Rewind” games are set for Dec. 11 against Kawhi Leonard and the L.A. Clippers, the Jan. 28 and April 10 games against Vince Carter and the Atlanta Hawks and the Feb. 25 game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
“We’re thinking of these nights as like a time machine or a stepback jumper through different ages,” Ferguson said. “We’ll be having a lot of fun remixing music, fashion, moments from the past to make that in-game experience really fun.”
A promotional graphic featuring the ”Two Five” gesture combines a wide variety of hands from young to old with different ethnicities. Shannon Hosford, the chief marketing officer at MLSE, said authenticity was key for the promotional effort.
“We’re talking about the Raptors brand but also the game, where the game has come and how it’s representing Toronto and Canada now,” she said. “To do the right things and not just to do them because we want to be different, but do it in a way that we’re relevant and culturally relevant.”
A tagline for the promotion references the Raptors’ early years when they played home games at SkyDome, the venue now called Rogers Centre that’s home to Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays.
“Twenty-five years ago we were a basketball team, playing in a baseball stadium, in a hockey town,” it reads. “Today we’re world champs.”
An estimated two million supporters were on hand for the Raptors’ parade and celebration last June. The team defeated the Golden State Warriors in a six-game final to win the NBA championship for the first time.
“Our challenge is not to convince people that we are a serious contender anymore,” Ferguson said. “We’re here and we’ve arrived. We’ve proven everyone wrong and now we’re opening up the next chapter.”
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press