Unveiling a Logo: One Year Ago, Thunder Struck OKC, NBA

When the NBA's Oklahoma City franchise was set to unveil its team’s name, logo and colors, it didn’t matter that Oklahoma native Tyler Cofer was nearly 500 miles away from home in Odessa, Texas.

Cofer, a soon-to-be Thunder employee, couldn’t miss such an event.

So just before the 5 p.m. unveiling began in downtown Oklahoma City, Cofer phoned his father back home in Fairview. Cofer experienced history in the making through his cell phone while his father held the family's house phone next to the television set as the announcement was made.

A state away, Cofer still felt a connection.

“I was real anxious, just knowing that Oklahoma finally got their major league franchise," he recalled. "Once it was announced, it was great relief that the Oklahoma City Thunder had finally arrived and the wait was over.”

On Sept. 3, 2008, the Thunder officially was welcomed into the NBA at a packed unveiling party in Leadership Square, where the team's corporate office islocated.

“I remember the day vividly,” Director of Events & Entertainment John Leach said. “We were up here pretty early. There was definitely a buzz in this building, people kind of hovering around, wondering.”

Todd Albright, the Thunder’s Events Manager, started setting up for the big announcement early in the morning. Two hours before the announcement, fans were already crowding the building’s spacious first floor and securing prime viewing space along the second-floor balcony.

Albright probably had one of the biggest responsibilities of the day: making sure no one saw the logo, featured on a 14-foot banner, all the while setting up for the announcement.

With hundreds of eyes fixed on the stage where the unveiling would be made, Albright had to replace the old “Oklahoma City” NBA banner with the new one without letting anyone, including the installation crew, catch a glimpse.

“It might have been the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever had to do,” Albright said. “It was a secret. I couldn’t tell anyone, I couldn’t show anyone, I couldn’t test things, I couldn’t run through things. Even when we got here the people who were on stage couldn’t visualize exactly what was going to happen because I couldn’t show them.”

As the moment drew closer to when the announcement would be made, hardly a space inside Leadership Square wasn’t occupied. It was as if everyone in the surrounding area received an excused absence from work.

“It was an exciting day for the organization, especially knowing that we had come so far but we hadn’t had anything to brand ourselves with,” Leach said. “So the logo and name was definitely the next step to becoming a basketball team here in Oklahoma City.”

When Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett finally made the announcement, the Thunder Shop on Park Avenue opened immediately, and the franchise was officially open in business.

More than a thousand miles away in New York City, the announcement of the Thunder in Oklahoma City rang just as loud.

A trio of Thunder business development account executives was in Manhattan for sponsorship training when the team’s name, logo and colors were revealed. Prior to that, all they had to show for themselves was a business card that read, “NBA in OKC.”

Account executive Stephanie Parrish received an email from a friend saying how crowded Leadership Square was.

“I was a little disappointed that I was in New York City,” she said.

Account executive Charlie Givens remembers opening an email that had the Thunder logo shortly before heading to dinner.

“We were all very happy about it,” he said, “as was everyone else from the league.”

Shortly thereafter, the Thunder trio found themselves amongst fellow account executives throughout the league at a restaurant.

“After a day and a half of mingling with your colleagues and being the people from the team with no name, we were happy to finally have the name, and I’ve got to give hats off to Charlie,” account executive Ryan O’Toole said. “He was able to corral hundreds of our colleagues at the NBA to chant 'Thunder' once the logo was released.”

From the media capital of the world to the NBA’s newest market, September 3, 2008, marked the day that the sports world could place a name next to Oklahoma City’s first major professional sports franchise.

“It’s amazing to me to build a brand like that,” Director of Corporate Communications Tom Savage said. “It’s not just an Oklahoma City brand or an NBA brand, it’s a global mark. That OKC logo is a global mark. Knowing that in 30 days, two months max, that entire brand mark had been put together really was amazing. People don’t realize how hard that is and how long that takes.”

Contact Chris Silva