SBJ/August 22-28, 2011/In Depth

Michigan State opts for consistency

Michigan State University entered its new brand identity campaign with Nike last year, but the strategy that’s worked so well for Oregon wasn’t what the Spartans wanted. They were more interested in consistency and a single, iconic look — not 300 variations of a uniform.

The university wanted a consistent theme whether it was volleyball or football.
“Our brand just wasn’t going to go to extremes in the way we present ourselves,” said Michigan State’s associate athletic director, Paul Schager. “For Oregon, it fits them and they expect that. For Michigan State, we’re looking for more of a consistent, traditional look. I guess it’s just an attitude people have. Maybe we’re more conservative in the Midwest and they’re more progressive on the West Coast. But you’ve got to have a feel for what your brand is.”

The Spartans had a couple of major decisions to make: What shade of green and what helmet design. They went with a deeper, darker green than they had used in the past, with gold trim around the numbers. They also elected to go with the Spartan head on the helmet, rather than the block “S” that can easily be confused with other schools.

“Our history is that a lot of uniform changes were adjustments made at the coaching level,” Schager said. “Each sport was making their own decisions and what we wound up with was a bunch of different shades of green. What we’ve said is that it’s not in the best interest of the program to have each coach put a signature on the uniforms. We’ve gone to a more centralized plan, and that’s a much better way to centralize our brand.”

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