“As the only NBA team in Canada, the Toronto Raptors have boldly embraced that status with the mission statement “We The North.” Across three playoff runs – first in 2017, again in 2018, and again in 2019 when they won their first ever NBA championship, the Raptors have teamed with Nice Shoes, led by creative director Stefan Woronko, to bring that rallying cry to life via epic, arena-filling animations that electrify the crowd and energize the team.
At the outset of each post-season, Woronko began with the colors, elements and type that the Raptors had established as their visual identity, while also incorporating any themes developed during the regular season. For the 2019 playoffs, the team sought to embrace the diversity of their fan base, with Woronko and his team animating a flag that had “We The North” laid out in many languages.
Each screen size was taken into consideration, with every animation designed to fit different aspect ratios throughout the arena. 2019 added a new element in the form of designing for the big screen fixed to the arena’s west wall – ‘Raptors Tailgate in Maple Leaf Square,’ also known as Jurassic Park. The screen brings the energy inside the arena outside, reflecting the city and country’s excitement for their team’s success.
Woronko also timed each element with the tempo of fan chants in mind, researching and cutting to fan chants found on social media. For example, with ‘Let’s Go Raptors’ and ‘This Is Our House,’ the motion graphics all move in time with how the crowd would cheer.
“When you’re designing for the live environment, there’s many factors in play that you have to anticipate, but can’t truly see play out until you’re actually there,” said Woronko. “It’s been great being there in person each year to see that everything was working, that the timing worked with the in-arena music, and that the crowd was into it. And seeing the Raptors’ amazing run this year has just been icing on the cake.”