The Tennessee Volunteers (Vols for short) are the NCAA teams at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN, competing in 18 different sports. The name comes from Tennessee’s nickname, “The Volunteer State”, earned during the War of 1812 because of the prominent role played by volunteer soldiers. The Vols have won 23 national team championships, most notably in men’s football and women’s basketball, where the “Lady Vols” have won 8 titles. Since 1997, the Vols have had a uniform deal with Adidas, which ended on June 30 of this year and, without missing a beat, yesterday, July 1, they introduced new uniforms designed by, you guessed it, Nike and its Graphic Identity Group.
In an effort to create consistency across all applications that honors the past while attracting new audiences in an authentic and meaningful way, there will be a new primary logo that pays tribute to what Volunteer Athletics stands for. The Power T logo has stood as a primary icon for The University of Tennessee Athletics for over half a century. It signals a strong foundation that honors the tradition that has been built across decades of competition that creates distinction. The weight has been adjusted to maintain the powerful look and visual presence of the T, which will serve as the main identifying device for all programs.
The partnership was announced in January of 2014 and reception has been a little rocky since then with fans, particularly when the decision was made to strike the “Lady Vols” nickname for all women’s teams, except basketball. The new identity clears a lot of existing logos — see screenshot above — and unifies all the teams through the “Power T” logo that has been slightly redrawn and… yeah… there is not much else to say about it in terms of execution but Nike’s recommendation and Tennessee’s decision to cut the fat was spot on. For further reading, you can see the initial brand audit by Nike here (PDF), which outlines in detail all the different logos, numerals, and type styles used by all the sports. Think and say what you will about Nike’s GIG but that’s a nice brand audit that could convince even the most nostalgic athletics director.
The element that stands out the most of the new identity is the TENNESSEE wordmark. It’s refreshing in that it’s spike-less and has a clear aesthetic that works only for this team because of all the double letters. If yesterday’s Facebook change left you hankering for that “fa” diagonal semi-ligature, this wordmark has five of those to tide you over. I don’t like how heavy-handed the letters get on their top-right corners but there is an undeniable, positive rhythm to the whole thing.
As part of the refined brand identity, all 20 of Tennessee Athletics sports teams will showcase consistent colors, logos, lettering and numerals that will debut with the football programs and eventually expand across all sports in the upcoming seasons. The Lady Vols mark will remain the primary logo for Women’s Basketball.
The Orange color is inspired by the common American daisy, which grew on the hill surrounding UT’s most notable building, Ayres Hall. White represents confidence and honesty. The neutral palette of Smokey Grey and Anthracite references the tonal layers of The Great Smoky Mountains, one of the State of Tennessee’s most iconic landmarks.
(You can literally see hundreds of pictures more of the new uniforms here). Nike’s uniform-designing prowess is in full effect in this redesign. The uniforms are minimalist and have an amazing range of flexibility and variety given how little elements they are using. The white, orange, and stormy gray colors work perfectly together and the wordmarks and numerals are all at the right size and in the right place. The trims are just enough to add sparks of color and some of the details like the small “Power T” logos or the faint Lady Vols logo in the women’s basketball jerseys are spot on. Even the addition of the Vols’ iconic checkerboard pattern — usually garish — gets a sophisticated treatment here. Overall, this might be one of Nike GIG’s more satisfying gigs.
Thanks to David Saunders for the tip.