SBD/September 15, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Univ. Of Maryland Football To Sport All-Black Uniforms This Weekend

Edsall in favor of Maryland's new all-black uniforms for Saturday's game
Univ. of Maryland football coach Randy Edsall yesterday revealed that his players "will be in all black for their game against West Virginia on Saturday," according to Matt Bonesteel of the WASHINGTON POST. Edsall previously said that the "all-black look was his personal favorite, and the team's captains apparently agreed" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/14). DC-area WRC-NBC's Sarah Kogod noted the "all black look is a stark contrast to the dizzying uniforms" that Maryland wore last week (NBCWASHINGTON.com, 9/14). In DC, Dave Sheinin writes under the header, "College Football Uniforms Are Getting More Outrageous, Thanks To Nike, Under Armour." For those two apparel companies, the "investment more than pays for itself -- not just in jersey and merchandise sales but in the exposure the company gets from the team’s visibility, particularly when the story goes national.” College football is “a game of imitation,” so when “something new works for one team, it is quickly appropriated by everyone else.” Sheinin writes the "model for the modern uniform makeover is undoubtedly" the Univ. of Oregon football team, thanks to Nike. Maryland's uniform makeover from Under Armour "has unmistakable parallels to the one in Oregon." For a company that “has aggressively battled Nike for control of the lucrative sports apparel market, it was a logical move.” rEvolution President & CEO John Rowady said, “Under Armour really needed a close partner in Maryland to pull that off” (WASHINGTON POST, 9/15). The AP’s Ralph Russo noted Maryland AD Kevin Anderson is "trying to create a new image for the Terrapins," with a "big boost" from Under Armour Chair, President & CEO Kevin Plank. It is a "strategy reminiscent of what Oregon did in the mid-1990s, when it struck a deal with Nike.” Anderson said, “Much of this is dictated toward recruiting and the other thing is revenue generation and the opportunity to merchandise things that represent the University of Maryland and the athletic department" (AP, 9/14).

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: In a front-page piece for the N.Y. TIMES, Mike Tainer notes for years, professional and college sports teams "have been pushing the boundaries of taste and commercialism with their uniforms, prepared to abandon tradition in pursuit of consumer dollars," but this year the trend has “become something of a frenzy, with uniforms changing week to week, and the apparel makers and universities becoming quite frank about what’s at play." The uniforms seem to “excite recruits and move younger fans to break out their credit cards.” Much has been made about the Univ. of Maryland's football uniforms this season, but "there are plenty of other college football uniforms to be delighted or offended by." Arizona State’s new look “includes a redesigned Sun Devils pitchfork on the helmet that resembles a medieval alchemy symbol crossed with a corporate flow chart.” Oklahoma State is “vying to become the Oregon of the Great Plains by making fiery orange the new yellow.” The Army-Navy game will be “a fashion show of sorts” this season, with both teams wearing new Nike Pro Combat uniforms. Last Saturday's Notre Dame-Michigan game was the “debut of retro-inspired uniforms that recalled the days of flagpole sitting.” Tanier notes adidas, with a client list that includes Michigan, Notre Dame, UCLA, Tennessee and Wisconsin, “outfits many universities with very traditional uniform styles.” But adidas Dir of Football & Baseball Mark Daniels said that the manufacturer “would be unveiling some bolder concepts before the end of the season and was braced for the inevitable criticism.” Daniels: “You judge it through the lens of, What did the student-athlete think?” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/15).

HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION? Nike released Pro Combat uniforms for several college football teams this week, and in Michigan, Patrick Walters wrote Michigan State is "smart to align itself with Nike." The Pro Combat uniform is the "direction college athletics has been heading for years, and the Spartans can either ride the crest of that wave and be innovators at the risk of looking stylish-if-silly, or they can retreat to the gravel pits of traditional, maudlin schtick with the Golden dome, the block M, Roll Tide and the rest." Walters added, "I want Nike to turn Michigan State into the Oregon of the Midwest. … I want the Spartans to look like this every single weekend" (MLIVE.com, 9/14). But in Miami, Michelle Kaufman writes, "So, where do uniforms go from here? How outlandish will they get? Will Nike glue feathers to the Ducks' uniforms? Will Texas have horns sticking out its helmets? Will the NCAA someday decide to limit the number of allowable uniform combinations because it creates an unfair recruiting advantage over schools that don’t have such lucrative sponsor deals?” (MIAMI HERALD, 9/15).
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