Later this month, the wildcat on Weber State’s athletics logo will venture down from his shield and go out into the world with a new look.
There, he’ll meet several other logos in the neighborhood that have been recently updated to try to keep up with the shifting landscape of college athletics.
Utah State revamped its branding and identity with Nike’s help, unveiling last Saturday a redesigned U-State mark, an aggressive bull logo and wordmarks to go on new uniforms in all sports and new playing surfaces for football and basketball.
The Big Sky Conference, where Weber State resides, is working on a new brand of its own to represent its identity as expands in July from a nine-team conference to 11 in all sports and 13 in football. The logo is likely to be unveiled around the league’s football media days in Park City on July 15-17.
The Mountain West Conference, where recent reports indicate Utah State is headed soon, redid its logo in 2011, using an MW mark that looks identical when viewed upside down.
“Upside down” is a good metaphor for the topsy-turvy world of conference realignment; sometimes the timing for rebranding fits as the sands keep shifting, other times schools and conferences are just trying to keep pace with the equally changing landscape of media and technology.
Weber State athletics director Jerry Bovee says it’s time for the school to update its athletic identity, though it won’t be a complete overhaul. The school will release its new branding effort on May 18.
The most significant change will be to move the wildcat mark off the purple shield and to make it more three-dimensional.
“This mark was produced before the World Wide Web became so prevalent,” Bovee said. “We needed to freshen the mark so it was a little more ubiquitous in the way we could use it — we needed to do more with it. Our thinking was, how do we bring this logo up to date and make it more useable in apparel, electronic media and social media. It just needed to be freshened up.”
The new wildcat logo, secondary marks and wordmarks are being designed by WSU’s University Communications department.
The university as a whole will continue to use the purple shield with a formal W for its academic identity, but athletics will no longer use the shield with the wildcat.
“The shield didn’t really translate into a useable mark on apparel that people seemed to get really excited about,” Bovee said. “When you have the discussion about moving the cat out of the shield, then you’ve got to talk about how do you design it so it can be fairly consistent. Right now, if you try to reverse it out on dark backgrounds it has a different look than if it’s on a white background.”
This is referred to as the electrocuted cat look — think Clark Griswold’s fried cat in the scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Another wildcat at Weber State will be getting a new look as well — Waldo the mascot.
Waldo will become a more athletic mascot “like the Jazz Bear,” Bovee said, he can engage more fans at the games and downtown.
Bovee’s goal for the logo redesign is simple.
“I hope (fans) feel like we didn’t lose the tradition of where we’ve been, that we’ve stayed in the same family, but that we’ve just updated it and it’s a more marketable approach,” he said. “I really hope it will be something they’ll get excited about and want to put on apparel and wear it around town. Even on campus, when you walk around, you see a lot of our students wearing apparel from other universities — BYU, Utah State and Utah. Obviously they’re wearing Weber State stuff too, but I want to get it to where they’re proud of their logo, they’re proud of their mark and they like the appeal of what we have on apparel and they want to wear it.”
He wants people to view Ogden as a college town for Weber State as well as standardize the various logos that have cropped up over the years.
“I want people to get warm fuzzies when they see our mark and say, ‘Hey, I want that,’ ” Bovee said.
Big Sky assistant commissioner for media relations Jon Kasper said the timing is good for the league’s redesign, with Southern Utah and North Dakota joining this July in all sports and UC Davis and Cal Poly joining for football, and the conference’s 50th anniversary coming up in 2013.
League officials and branding firm SME Branding are currently whittling down their choices for a logo.
“Obviously with the expansion of four institutions for football and two full members, it really changes the overall look of the conference, so we felt like it was the perfect time to invest in a rebrand,” Kasper said. “(SME Branding) does a lot of research with fans, alumni, coaches, administrators, student-athletes, to get a feel of what our conference is perceived as to them, then that feedback translates into what they’re doing to help better our brand.”
Quick fact: The current Big Sky logo is meant to represent a burst of sunlight rising from the Earth’s horizon — not a shooting star, as many believe.
The league would like to change other perceptions as well. Conversations about rebranding the league began two years ago and picked up steam last year.
“I think there’s a perception we’re focused so much on football and we need to really work on building on our basketball brand. That’s something we kind of knew already,” Kasper said, but there has also been positive feedback showing that Big Sky fanbases feel a close connection to their schools.
“One of the positives is, you look at a guy like (NBA-bound former Weber State basketball star) Damian Lillard and you can go to the game and have a chance to go down on the court after the game and get his autograph,” he said. “There’s a real closeness to the student-athletes and for the most part they view our student-athletes as good role models, that we’re not in that mega-million-dollar, almost-not-reality world of college athletics.”
League commissioner Doug Fullerton views the ever-turbulent landscape of conference realignment as a chance to position the Big Sky as the third-most prominent football league in the west behind the Pac-12 and the Mountain West, Kasper said.
That task certainly becomes achievable with the Western Athletic Conference seemingly teetering on life support if, as has been reported, Utah State and San Jose State leave for the Mountain West and Louisiana Tech, Texas-San Antonio prepare to Conference USA and Texas State joins the Sun Belt Conference.
“It’s very possible that there’s only going to be three football-playing conferences left in the west,” Kasper said, “so it’s a great time to rebrand ourselves.”