ASU unveils ‘new look’ in athletics…black is back!

The hype is finally over.  Sun Devil fans can finally stop holding their collective breath in anticipation of getting a peak into the future of the Arizona State athletic program.

No, not next year’s teams.  The uniforms.  The logo… the ‘look’.

Arizona State has unveiled a new, updated look for its athletic program, with help from The Swoosh.

The University of Arizona also called a press conference this afternoon down the road in Tucson, to introduce its new swimming & diving head coach to the media.  That was set for 2:30.

Bad timing.  It seemed like all the media in the state was in Tempe, descending on the 2:00 press conference in the Memorial Union building at ASU.  The school had blitzed the media for weeks, promoting this day – and it drew a heckuva crowd.

Sparky and the gang introduced a university-wide athletics re-branding and identity program, developed in conjunction with Nike over the past 12 months.  The Swoosh stepped in to help with the project, the brainchild of Vice President for Athletics Lisa Love, since ASU had been affiliated with the apparel giant for some 10 years now.

And thank you, Nike, for doing something about those silly decals on the side of the football helmets.  The cartoon image of Sparky, the mascot, has been replaced by a cool pitchfork.

Fear the fork!

Getting rid of the helmet design would have been worth the re-branding effort all by itself.

The other big change is the addition of two more colors, to go with the traditional maroon and gold.  Back from the past is the color black, resurrected from the ’50s when the football team wore black helmets, combined with an accent of copper.

The black, say school officials, provides an element of strength, power, and attitude.  The copper represents ‘the majesty of the Arizona landscape’ and acknowledges the influence of one of the state’s most recognized resources.

At least they didn’t go crazy with the uniform designs, like the mix-and-match futuristic football uniforms that have defined the University of  Oregon program.  And they didn’t give the boot to Sparky, who has been a fixture at games and sporting events since 1950.

Perhaps that can be credited to the fact that ASU and Nike conducted focus groups and sought out input from the coaches, students, faculty and staff, alumni, and fans.

“As an athletics program and a university, we have undergone many changes over ASU’s 100-year history,” said Love, in presenting the new branding.  “We have studied our past and are fully committed to moving boldly forward into the future.”

Love, who was hired away from USC almost exactly six years ago, says she noticed right away that the image of the athletics program was inconsistent, with different shades of maroon and gold, different logos, and multiple type fonts on the uniforms.  The school’s partnership with Nike provided the impetus she needed to bring about the change.

During this afternoon’s unveiling, student-athletes were on hand to model the new uniforms for the various sports.  All 21 of the teams will be getting new uniforms for the 2011-12 season.

The new branding will be carried over to casual apparel, hats, etc.  And, of course, it will soon be available at the ASU Bookstore, Stadium Shop, and in retail stores.

Just because Sparky has a new look, it doesn’t mean he’s lost his head for business.  He’ll be using that new fork to snag some new marketing dollars.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)