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Overwatch: Why Team Colors Are A Big Deal

Hangzhou Spark

On Nov. 14, the Hangzhou Spark introduced themselves to the Overwatch world. With this tweet, the cotton candy-colored team burst through the doors of the Overwatch League. Hangzhou is one of three new Chinese teams to enter the Overwatch League for Season 2. The other teams include the Chengdu Hunters and Guangzhou Charge. They join the Shanghai Dragons as the Chinese teams for the Overwatch League.

Hangzhou Spark
Courtesy of Esports Insider

The Spark shocked the Overwatch scene by revealing their colors, light blue and pink. This is different than anything the Overwatch League has seen before. But why was this decision to go pink so electrifying? Why is it that so many teams across the world use blue and red? This calculated risk could have gone down as a disaster, but fans of the league have embraced it. Let’s get some context.

Colors in Sports

Out of the 32 teams in the NFL, 68% of the them use either blue or red in their primary colors. In the MLB, 80% of the 30 use these two colors. Finally, in the MLS, 87% of the 23 teams have blue or red in their teams colors. These two colors are staples for sports teams around the globe. All around the world, these colors can be seen in various facets of sport. For some teams, this may include secondary jerseys as well.

One of the three teams to not have red or blue in their primary colors in the MLS is the Portland Timbers. Their colors are green and gold. However, if you look to their away jersey, it is red. Why? Portland is the Rose City, and their team finds solace with the city and its colors. The women’s team in Portland is the Portland Thorns (whose colors happen to include red as well).

Psychology and Colors

Hangzhou Spark
Courtesy of

This still does not answer why many teams use red and blue in their colors. There have been empirical studies devoted to answering this question. In a longitudinal study, researchers Martin J. Attrill, Karen A. Gresty, Russell A. Hill and Robert A. Barton analyzed English soccer teams from 1947 to 2003. What they found was that teams wearing red won more championships in a disproportionate number. Across all leagues that were analyzed, teams that wore red had the best home record and a significant difference in percentage of maximum points achieved, as well as mean position in the table. Why does wearing red correlate to winning more often?

First, a study was conducted in 2005 by Hill and Barton about Olympic athletes and the colors they wore. Then, as an extension to that, Dennis Dreiskaemper, Bernd Strauss, Norbert Hagemann, and Dirk Büsch sought to analyze the effects of the color red in combat sports. Fighters in taekwondo, boxing, and wrestling were participants for this experiment. The experiment created a combat situation, and color of attire was assigned randomly. The measurements that were measured were strength and heart rate. Fourteen pairs of male fighters, each of equal weight, height, and age fought twice; once in red and once in blue.

What they found is that those wearing red had higher heart rates and a higher pre-contest score on the strength test. It is important to note that this data is for participants of equal strength. “If one competitor is strong and the other weak, it won’t change the outcome of the fight,” said Norbert Hagemann. “But the closer the levels, the easier it is for the colour to tip the scale”.

Colors and Esports

An article published in the CyberPsychology and Behavior Journal in 2008, conducted by Andrei Ilie, Silvia Ioan, Leon Zagrean, and Mihai Moldovan, researched if teams wearing red won more games. Based off of the results that Olympians at the 2004 Olympic Games won more events when wearing red, the researchers sought to see if this could be paralleled in the virtual world. The researchers hypothesized that teams in red would outperform teams in blue. Over 1,347 matches, they observed that the red teams won 54.9% of games. They found that seeing the color red might be correlated with signals in the brain connected to aggression.

Hangzhou Spark
Courtesy of PCGamesN

Their research is backed by previous psychological studies about the color red. A study was published in The Royal Societies Biology Letters, conducted by Diana WiedemannD. Michael BurtRussell A. Hill, and Robert A. Barton. It found that the color red is correlated to dominance and testosterone in animal species, as well as humans. They also found support that artificial red stimuli can influence dominance and aggression. Digitally altered images of males in red were perceived to be more aggressive and dominant than those in other colors. 

Why The Spark Matters?

Half of the original 12 Overwatch League teams have red or blue in their colors. So far, Atlanta, Paris, Guangzhou, and Toronto also have red or blue in their team colors. The Hangzhou Spark have done something very different. While keeping with the majority, they have included blue. However, this is their secondary color. They decided to go with a bright pink as the primary color. This has generated massive media hype, with some even calling it “the best brand in the Overwatch League”. While this is not the first time we have seen a primarily pink team (see team RunAway in Korea), fans will undoubtedly still be excited.

Hangzhou Spark
Courtesy of

It seems that Hangzhou’s bold strategy of color has paid off for them. With many calling the Toronto and Paris reveals “boring and safe”, this was the breath of fresh air that Overwatch fans were hoping for. On the Project Esports Podcast, when talking about Overwatch logos and colors, the concept of a pink team was discussed (this podcast was recorded before the announcement of the Hangzhou Spark colors). It is a unique color that has fans of many teams excited.

The Hangzhou Spark were welcomed in by various other Overwatch League teams and players on Twitter, many referencing both the “finger-gun” shaped logo and anime, through both gifs and emojis. Players such as Austin “Muma” Wilson and Jong-ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park are both admiring the colors on Twitter. Players, teams, and fans alike all seem to be reacting positively to the change.

What do you think about the bold colors of the Hangzhou Spark? Will their unique marketing strategy work out for them in the long run? Will you be buying a jersey?


Need More?

Follow me on Twitter @awheatondude I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Featured Image Courtesy of Business Wire

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1 comment

Overwatch: The Bold, The Brash (And The Belongs In The Trash) Of The New Expansion Teams • The Game Haus December 4, 2018 at 6:00 am

[…] teams include some variation of either red or blue. To see why these colors are so prevalent, see this previous article about the psychology behind colors in sports and […]


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