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This is a very old entry — images are small, formatting is off.

 

Sparky Benched by Nike

Reviewed May. 10, 2011 by Brand New

Industry / Sports Tags /

Sun Devils Logo, Before and After

Founded in 1885, Arizona State University is the largest public research university in the United States with a 2010 student enrollment of 70,440. Its Division I athletic teams, known as the Sun Devils, has collectively won 136 national championships to date. The Sun Devils have been recently rebranded and the Sparky mascot illustration, which had been used since 1946, has been replaced as the team’s primary identifier. This rebranding effort was completed by the Nike Graphic identity Group. According to ASU, the objectives of this initiative were “…to create a bold, high- performance athletic image and a promotional campaign that would maximize enthusiasm and interest in supporting the university, but to do so with minimum out-of-pocket costs.”

Sun Devils

You can see even more lock-ups and variations here.

The Sparky illustration, designed by former Disney illustrator Bert Anthony in 1946, that once adorned helmets, baseball hats, and uniforms, has been replaced by the new pitchfork symbol. Sparky will remain the official mascot of the teams, but will no longer appear on uniforms. The heritage colors of maroon and gold are still part of the core palette, which has been expanded to now also include black to add some attitude and a nod to the black football helmets worn in the 1950s, and copper to represent Arizona heritage. A new athletic font called “Sun Devil Bold” was also designed as part of this rebranding effort. The new font “…incorporates unique characteristics intended to represent the horns of its mascot Sparky or the tines of the pitchfork he carries” according to the ASU press release.

Sun Devils

Sun Devil Bold.

Overall, the new look of the Sun Devils is tougher, bolder, and more aggressive. Frankly, it’s pretty hard to poke a hole in the design execution and those matte black helmets are really nice and surely will start a trend.




A creative director and a graphic designer from Nike talk about the new identity.


“Fear the fork”.

Sun Devils

Sun Devils

Sun Devils

Sun Devils

Sun Devils

Sun Devils

The application of the brand was all over the place and ASU needed some help but the larger question, however, is did ASU really need to drastically rebrand to covey boldness? Or was the prospect of 70,000-plus students and countless alumni buying new branded merchandise the real driver? Did that tough 65-year-old Sparky really need to be benched? These are tough questions to answer. ASU, like many others universities, always need to be raising money beyond tuition and governmental funding to sustain itself and new well-marketed and rebranded merchandise can really support that effort. I think moving so far away from where they were was probably not needed to accomplish their goal. I just hate seeing the 65-year-old Sparky, the symbol of the ASU Athletic Department heritage, get pushed to the side for no apparent reason other than to “slick” things up to sell merchandise.

Roy Levitt is a brand identity specialist and design expert dedicated to building brands that define, inspire, support, and transform organizations. He has helped define some of the world’s leading brands while working at leading global strategic brand identity firms and now as a partner of his own firm, Van Deusen & Levitt Associates. Roy is a founding member of the AIGA’s branding chapter and he has provided commentary in relation to branding in AdAge and other national and global news publications as well as been featured on the FOX Business News segment “Battle of the Brands.”

 

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