SBD/September 7, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Turtle Power? Maryland's Unique Under Armour Uniforms Draw Nation's Attention

Maryland uniforms from Monday's season opener called "hideous," "brutal"
Following the Univ. of Maryland's football team debuting it new Under Armour jerseys during its win Monday night over the Univ. of Miami, the jersey's "hideousness became a trending topic on Twitter," but what the uniforms "really did for Maryland was create a national buzz, however uncomplimentary," according to Kelly Whiteside of USA TODAY. Critics were "commenting on every detail from the yellow and black/red and white helmet modeled after the state flag down to their matching cleats." ESPN's Skip Bayless wrote on his Twitter feed, "These Maryland uniforms are shockingly hideous. But guarantee you, they'll be talked about on every show tomorrow. National pub for Terps." Whiteside noted UM "warmed up in different uniforms, including helmets." The pregame helmets "used a Tortoise shell design, consistent with the school's 'Fear The Turtle' slogan" (USATODAY.com, 9/5). UM coach Randy Edsall noted the team kept these uniforms "under the lid" when it unveiled the new UA jerseys last month. Edsall: "This was our ‘Pride’ uniform, Maryland Pride, part of the new branding we’re doing at Maryland. We want everyone to feel a part of what we’re doing and incorporate the state colors. We’re playing for every person in the state of Maryland, we’re playing for everybody that’s ever worn the Maryland jersey." Edsall said he showed the team prior to the game a video from Under Armour about the jerseys, and the players “just blew the roof off the hotel.” He added, "I’m just so proud of our partnership with Under Armour and them giving us the opportunity to wear all the uniforms we have. But this was really something special. We wanted to make it something special because we were on ESPN primetime. ... It’s great to see that the uniqueness and the innovation that Under Armour has that allows our kids to wear those great uniforms" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/5). ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich wrote UM QB Danny O’Brien “was surprised" when told the jerseys were "getting blasted on Twitter." O’Brien: “For real? We thought they were cool” (ESPN.com, 9/6).

GREAT WAY TO MARKET SCHOOL, PROGRAM: SI's Stewart Mandel indicated that the UM's uniforms "gave a previously unbuzzworthy program a national identity." Mandel: "As ugly as (the uniforms) were to anyone over a certain age, it accomplished exactly what they want it to. For three hours [Monday] night, everyone was talking about Maryland football. When's the last time anyone talked about Maryland football?" UM Associate Media Relations Dir Shawn Nestor "didn't deny that the goal of the uniforms" was to create "some buzz, but said that they were just a nod to the state's heritage" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/7). USA TODAY's Reid Cherner writes Edsall "is a marketing genius trying to rebuild a program." Cherner: "What is better than a coast-to-coast splash on opening night?" (USA TODAY, 9/7). ESPN’s Tony Reali said, “If the idea is you want people to talk about them, then this worked. Maybe next week they come back with the turtle shell helmet” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 9/6). SportsNet N.Y.'s Eamon McAnaney said, “It worked. Maryland on national TV made a splash. ... The Terps hadn't had this much exposure for in forever” ("The Wheel House," SportsNet N.Y., 9/6).

DESIGNED TO MAKE A SPLASH: In Baltimore, Rosen & Barker note UA "intended for the uniforms to make a splash," but maybe "not this much splash." UA Senior VP/Sports Marketing Matt Mirchin said, "It probably got a little bit more attention than we thought. It was a little bit polarizing. You either like it or you don't like it." Rosen & Barker report UM "had originally planned to debut the look for the Notre Dame game" on Nov. 12, but there was "so much at stake during Monday night's game -- new coach, a season opener -- that the team decided, why wait?" (Baltimore SUN, 9/7). Also in Baltimore, Kevin Cowherd wrote “The Terps’ new look is hideously spectacular. And I mean that in a good way -- sort of.” Edsall “is pulling out all the stops trying to energize the Maryland football program and its lethargic fan base.” He is “trying to draw attention to the Terps any way he can,” and when UM “came out in their garish new unis ... it was mission accomplished.” Cowherd: “How to describe the new look? It’s as if Salvador Dali ... got together with the Under Armour uniform designers and they all smoked something ... and decided: ‘Random patterns from the Maryland state flag in a sequential pattern – or not! Can you see it?! Yes! Perfect!” (BALTIMORESUN.com, 9/6). YAHOO SPORTS’ Matt Hinton wrote UM gave us a “fair warning last month, rolling a line of 32 new uniform combinations.” But somehow the team "managed to come out ... in something even weirder for their rare turn in the national spotlight.” Hinton: “Screw it: I like ‘em. That’s right. The new look is original, it’s extremely specific to Maryland” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/5).

PAGING MR. BLACKWELL: ABC News’ Diane Sawyer previewed a report on UM's uniforms titled “Ugly Uniforms?” by noting the Internet "was flooded with chatter about the uniforms based on the state flag,” and many people were asking whether they were the “ugliest sports uniforms ever” (“World News,” ABC, 9/6). Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s David Kaplan asked, “Did you see these absolutely brutal looks? Those things were awful" (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 9/6). SportsNet N.Y.'s Chris Carlin: "Those things are God awful! I thought Dale Earnhardt Jr. was going to drive down the field looking across the finish line with that checkered play. Hey, next time just match them up with those old-time NFL Zubaz pants. It’ll complete the look” (“Loud Mouths,” SportsNet N.Y., 9/6). ABC’s Sharyn Alfonsi said the uniforms were “part comic book villain, part medieval times jester" (“GMA,” ABC, 9/7). In Phoenix, Bob Young: "Hideous is too kind. We might call an injury lawyer" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 9/7). The AP's Jim Litke: "We have glimpsed the future of college football, and it's not good" (AP, 9/6).

UGA criticized for wearing "circus gear"
during season-opening game
MORE FASHION FAUX PAS: ESPN.com’s Paul Lukas wrote the first weekend of college football “certainly had its share of, um, memorable looks.” UM was "in court jester mode," and for "some reason I kept thinking the players looked like living chess pieces." However, that was not the only school to debut new looks. The "two-tone facemask" that Georgia wore Saturday night "sounds like a cool idea; in practice, it makes you look like someone gave you a bloody lip." Lukas: "OK, so it probably wasn’t even a good idea in theory, but it was probably better than the rest of Georgia’s uniform costume on Saturday. The good news: This was a one-off design that won’t be worn again this season.” Meanwhile, for reasons that "aren’t entirely clear, gray is a ‘hot’ color in design circles at the moment," but it is "not so great if you’re wearing a gray football jersey," as Oklahoma State did Saturday. Lukas: "It’s a pretty weird choice for the season-opening game, right?” (ESPN.com, 9/6). However, Anthony Slater, sports editor of OSU student newspaper The Daily O'Collegian, said, "The entire reaction was more negative than the team was expecting" (USA TODAY, 9/7). In N.Y., Barry Rubinstein wrote, “We already have been exposed to several degrees of ghastliness on the college football uniform front already with this season still in the infancy stage. On Saturday night, Boise State wore uniforms that could have been developed by the same folks who came up with MLB’s ill-fated turn-ahead-the-clock unis from a few seasons back. ... And the less said about the million and four horrid combinations worn by the Oregon Yucks, I mean, Ducks, the better. All that said, we may have a hit a new low [Monday] night” (N.Y. POST.com, 9/6).

COMPANIES GETTING WHAT THEY WANT: In N.Y., Lenn Robbins notes the attention paid to the jerseys worn by UM, UGA and Boise State was "exactly what the marketing folks at Nike and Under Armour were hoping would happen." They created "something really repulsive and let the media provide billions of dollars in free advertising." Oregon "needs its Nike uniforms to help it develop into a brand," but Maryland and Georgia "are brands." UGA fans "should have been insulted to see the Dawgs dressed in traveling circus garb," while UM fans "should have cringed when their team took the field looking as if they found old rugby helmets and slapped on [some] face masks" (N.Y. POST, 9/7). In DC, Ned Martel asked if the UM jerseys were "yet another salvo in a very colorful corporate contest" between UA and Nike (WASHINGTON POST, 9/7). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said the uniforms were "brilliantly ugly, because this is going to set the agenda for what every school in America is going to do with their uniforms.” Wilbon: "Teams will scrap their uniforms before Saturday and call Kevin Plank” (“PTI,” ESPN, 9/6).

MORE TO COME: In West Palm Beach, Jason Lieser notes Michigan and Notre Dame, which are both adidas schools, "plan to wear unconventional jerseys" for their meeting Saturday night. UM "will wear maize and blue striped tops that are a combination of modern and retro," while Notre Dame will "wear gold helmets that have a large, green clover on each side" (PALM BEACH POST, 9/7).
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