Bryan Almonte knew this was something he wanted to be a part of.
His official title is communications manager, but Almonte wears multiple hats for the Red Sox, including working with the club’s marketing and branding department. Almonte is also passionate about fashion.
So when he got word that the Red Sox were teaming up with Nike and Major League Baseball as part of Nike’s “City Connect” series, Almonte reached out to Red Sox executive vice president and chief marketing officer Adam Grossman. The feeling was mutual. Grossman knew Almonte would be the right person to work closely with him and Nike to spearhead the venture.
On Tuesday, the Red Sox announced the team will wear an innovative and creative uniform featuring a yellow jersey with blue letters on April 17-18 to commemorate and celebrate Patriots Day in Boston. (The team will wear its traditional “B Strong” jerseys for the Monday, April 19, game.) The uniforms will say “Boston” across the front and feature Boston’s 617 area code on a runner’s bib on the left sleeve.
“When Adam had approached me about this project with Nike, he was like, ‘We got something special,’ ” Almonte recalled.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Miami Marlins, and the Chicago Cubs and White Sox are also included in Nike’s City Connect series.
The mission of the City Connect series is to celebrate the bond between each team and its city. A piece of Boston’s history is rooted in a great racial divide. So Nike and the Red Sox wanted to make sure they were doing their part to amplify the often-muted voices of Boston’s Black and Brown communities, and will include as part of the campaign a series of seven Black and Brown voices across many professions.
“I think there are times when we are viewed as representative of the problem,” Grossman said. “You know our history with race, and the challenges as an organization and what we’ve tried to shift over the last 20 years. That’s part of it. People have an instinct about Boston that’s not exactly what that instinct is. We want to be a catalyst for recognizing that, as well. And also having people recognize that we, too, are changing and are more diverse.”
Almonte is Dominican. He’s from New York, specifically the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. He now lives in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. When he walks out his door each day for work, he sees diversity and stories of minorities living in his neighborhood or the surrounding areas, including Roxbury, Hyde Park, and Roslindale. The Red Sox marketing team chose to target these neighborhoods.
“We should be using this uniform to unite communities in Boston,” Almonte said. “So [it was about] trying to find those voices from Black and Brown people that aren’t heard. This was an opportunity to be like, let’s empower those voices and identify who can tell the story of Boston in a way that it hasn’t been told before.”
The creative process for the jerseys started nearly two years ago, led by Nike’s senior creative director, Wil Green. Almonte, Green, and Grossman acknowledged that the jerseys are audacious, but that has often defined Nike. In a sport such as baseball trying to veer away from stoicism and instead seep into the personalities of its players, Green understood that the audacity would serve a purpose.
“We’re really hoping it starts a conversation between the club and the community in a new way,” Green said. “We’re really looking for moments. For that through the series of jerseys is really opening up the aperture and bringing in new fans to the game and starting new conversations between the club and the community.”
Grossman was clear: The yellow uniform won’t replace the Red Sox’ customary look. Its purpose is to honor Patriots Day through a fresh lens.
“This is something new and different that we thought we wanted to expand,” Grossman said. “Think differently about our brand and think differently about our approach to fans and to try to spark something new.”
Almonte works closely with the Red Sox players, whom he said were all onboard with the idea. Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and Alex Verdugo did a photoshoot, showing off the team’s new threads.
“It’s great that Nike entrusted us and MLB to be able to usher in this new City Connect program,” Almonte said. “That shows they trust us and they trust our fanbase and our history to be able to basically deliver what they expect.”
Julian McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.