April 12, 2011

Arizona State unveils branding makeover

Arizona State held a much-ballyhooed public unveiling of its athletics branding and identity makeover Tuesday in front of an overflow crowd of hundreds in the school's Memorial Union, which included dozens of media members, a plethora of athletes and athletics support staff.

The slogan, "It's time to shape our destiny," eventually shortened to "It's time," was thematically prominent in the marketing build up to Tuesday's event, and during the presentation itself.

A new pitchfork logo, created by NIKE, took center stage as the voice of the Sun Devils, Tim Healey, and ASU Director of Athletics Lisa Love, presented by a tuxedoed Sparky, introduced Sun Devils modeling basketball, football, softball and volleyball jerseys in white, maroon and for the first time, black.

Changes include a new and trademarked font, called "Sun Devil Bold," on the letters and numbers, a shoulder stripe reminiscent of a pitchfork blade, and "ASU" on the sleeves.

ASU's new font and overall look will be seamlessly integrated across all sports beginning in the fall semester.

But the biggest difference is the new and bold pitchfork, featured prominently on ether matte black or flat gold football helmets, with a Sparky sticker on the back of each.

"When I arrived at ASU six years ago I noticed we were an athletics program which featured different shades of maroon and gold, different logos, multiple fonts and uniforms," Love said. "There was a lack of real consistency with regard to our brand. This partnership with Nike, which began nearly a decade ago for uniforms, will springboard us to a new level of branding, giving us a coordinated university-wide focus that will support our aspirations as a high-performance athletic organization."

Black jerseys, the new pitchfork and football helmets generated the biggest buzz among those players, students and media members in attendance, with NIKE receiving near-universal credit for doing an impressive job with the branding efforts.

"We are proud of the longstanding relationship we have had with Arizona State," said Todd Van Horne, Nike's Global Creative Director. "Nike is a company that was born out of innovation. This combined with ASU's spirit of innovation and change has helped us create a bold and powerful brand for Sun Devil Athletics."

Due to this significant overhaul, ASU expects to double its typical annual merchandising revenue of $1 million in the year ahead, with NIKE paying for the design costs and the school's athletics licensing partner, CLC, paying for the event launch.

"We thought it was important to keep out-of-pocket costs at a minimum," said Terri Shafer, ASU's Associate Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Communications. "We systematically went through how we could have a major impact and do the job we needed to do without spending money with the state of Arizona in the condition that it is in. We spent no taxpayer money, we spent no student tuition money."

ASU seniors Omar Bolden (white), Garth Gerhart (black), and Gerell Robinson (maroon) modeled the football jerseys, which received a large ovation from students in attendance.

"Sweet. Fly," Bolden said of the new look. "To be honest I really like the all white uniform. It's going to make us fast. I like the black too. We've got a lot of combos, we've got 10 or 12 combos. We're going to look good, we're going to play good."

Bolden said that when players like how they look, it has a tangible impact on performance.

"It gives guys that swagger in the locker room before you even step on the field," he said.." When you've got that type of confidence and you're feeling that good about yourself before you step on the field, it's pretty scary and dangerous once you touch the field. I know it's weird and it sounds funny, but that's how it is."

Gerhart said he appreciated wearing all black for the unveiling, calling it his favorite look, and thought the new helmet will be a real improvement.

"The new pitchfork on the helmet," Gerhart said, when asked of his favorite aspect of the new uniform. "It's more fierce looking, it's more jagged, it's just mean."

Robinson said the hype leading up to the event had a big impact and a ground swelling of interest in the program is something the team hopes to capitalize on in the fall.

"There were so many months leading up to this and people were curious about what the jerseys would look like, what colors there would be, if there even were new jerseys, even myself, so I believe it was a good marketing ploy and got everybody's interest.

"I had black in high school and felt like when we wore black, the team we were playing was just intimidated."

Love called false the notion that a more prominent Pitchfork will lead to Sparky's overall role being minimized.

"Sparky is absolutely not downplayed," Love said. "That is the best mascot in the United States, and there is no reason for us to put Sparky on the back burner. He is going to be very much on the front burner. He is actually going to get bigger."

Love wouldn't provide specifics of when a revamped Sparky would be seen, or provide details of what she meant when she said Sparky's role will increase, but multiple program sources have said Sparky will become much more visible on campus.

Dennis Erickson, ASU's football coach, said NIKE did a terrific job and the athletes on campus are pleased across the board with the changes. He's also excited about what it can do for his staff in the acquisition of talent.

"I think it will have a tremendous impact on recruiting, there is no question about it," Erickson said. "Young guys are out there and they like to see new things. That's the nature of football and the nature of life now. People like that kind of stuff. So I think it's very very important to stay up and do new things and exciting things. Those guys watch TV. I don't care what anybody says, they see a different look, they pay attention to how it is."

Sun Devil basketball coach Herb Sendek said he loved the seamlessness of the new look across all sports and agreed with Erickson that it will help with recruiting to some degree.

"I really do," Sendek said. "How do you quantify it? You can't measure it but certainly when you have a sharp presentation, a color combination that is attractive to young people, it can't hurt."

Sendek is already thinking of how he will incorporate the black jerseys into the fold when this season rolls around.

"My initial thinking is obviously we wear white at home and then alternate on the road between maroon and black, maybe maroon on Thursdays and black on Saturdays, something of that nature, non-conference alternating in some way," he said.

And Bolden hinted at when ASU fans might get their first glimpse at the all black uniforms at Sun Devil Stadium in the fall.

"We call it 'Blackout Friday' because we're about to kill whatever we do," Bolden said. "Whether that be a workout, a practice, a mat drill, whatever. When we put that all black on it's real serious for us."

The Sun Devils host Missouri on Friday, Sept. 9 on ESPN.



 

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