When the smartest guys in the room forget the value of tradition

What can go wrong when the smartest marketers in the room forget there can be great common sense behind some traditions?

In every football game I've watched at all levels over 59 years, one team has worn white jerseys trimmed in their team colors while the other team wore jerseys in their team colors trimmed in white.  Last year, Nike and the NFL thought Thursday night football games needed more visual excitement, so they instituted Color Rush to celebrate the 50th anniversary of NFL games being broadcast in color.  For the first game in the promotion, the Buffalo Bills dressed in all red uniforms to play the NY Jets, dressed in all green uniforms.

This is what Nike and the NFL expected everyone to see.

What the promoters failed to realize was that for some 8.3% of the male population who are red-green colorblind, the image below is what they actually saw: Twenty- two gray players against a dark gray field.  (Video of a crucial turnover here.)

It is a real puzzler how none of the marketing people, the senior NFL officials, or the management of the teams themselves realized that some 13% or so of their normal TV audience (66% male) would not be able to make out anything that was happening on the field.  The feedback from colorblind fans was vicious.  Why did they think that the tradition arose that one football team is always dressed mostly in white?  Outmoded racial privilege? 

The NFL and Nike plan to continue "Color Rush" promotion for Thursday night football in 2016, but they promise to test all uniform combinations for the ability of the colorblind to tell the players apart.

I suspect that means some teams will have to have a lot more white on their “color rush" uniforms.  The throwback uniforms of the Dallas cowboys hint at one solution, with the contrasting sleeve plus a large team logo on each shoulder.  

What can go wrong when the smartest marketers in the room forget there can be great common sense behind some traditions?

In every football game I've watched at all levels over 59 years, one team has worn white jerseys trimmed in their team colors while the other team wore jerseys in their team colors trimmed in white.  Last year, Nike and the NFL thought Thursday night football games needed more visual excitement, so they instituted Color Rush to celebrate the 50th anniversary of NFL games being broadcast in color.  For the first game in the promotion, the Buffalo Bills dressed in all red uniforms to play the NY Jets, dressed in all green uniforms.

This is what Nike and the NFL expected everyone to see.

What the promoters failed to realize was that for some 8.3% of the male population who are red-green colorblind, the image below is what they actually saw: Twenty- two gray players against a dark gray field.  (Video of a crucial turnover here.)

It is a real puzzler how none of the marketing people, the senior NFL officials, or the management of the teams themselves realized that some 13% or so of their normal TV audience (66% male) would not be able to make out anything that was happening on the field.  The feedback from colorblind fans was vicious.  Why did they think that the tradition arose that one football team is always dressed mostly in white?  Outmoded racial privilege? 

The NFL and Nike plan to continue "Color Rush" promotion for Thursday night football in 2016, but they promise to test all uniform combinations for the ability of the colorblind to tell the players apart.

I suspect that means some teams will have to have a lot more white on their “color rush" uniforms.  The throwback uniforms of the Dallas cowboys hint at one solution, with the contrasting sleeve plus a large team logo on each shoulder.