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devilray2k1

High schools...untapped branding goldmine?

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I know we often bring up high schools and their logos and branding and stuff...mostly in either a nostalgic homage post or making fun of the fact that most high schools idea of a good logo is taking a professional or college logo and changing the colors...

I was wondering if anyone here has seriously pursued offering a high school a branding package...perhaps as a freelance gig or even through a company you might be working for?

You could even do a sports logo and a seperate academic logo like most colleges have...

A lot of big name high schools are getting games on national tv in basketball and football...more production has been put into a lot of state tournaments across the nation...and it seems as if there is a little void as far as high school logos are concerned...

could a designer legitimately pursue a job branding a high school? It seems like it'd be no big deal, but then again if it wasn't I'm sure designers would be all over this notion like a bum on a sandwich!

If nothing else I think it would be really fun and be an opportunity to do some design work in more of a pure form...

Am I being naive? Too ambitious? Or should I start mocking up a few proposals? What do you guys think? Why is the high school branding so behind and ignored?

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Most high schools don't have the funding to pay for all of the things they need (or think they need). They're not likely to devote much to something that they don't believe they need (whether that be the case or not--I'm not sure a high school has THAT much to gain from a good brand even though I'd like to see it).

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Just as a uniform supplier, I do like to offer my schools a branding package as a complimentary part of my service. In my area, a lot of the schools already have great identities and logos, so all I would really have to do is a little tweak here and there. The only thing is, and Bulldog will be the man to talk to about this much more than me, is that it is extremely rare for a school to order full new sets of uniforms for all of it's teams in a year. Aside from the uniforms, you would also have to let the school go through whatever inventory of items they already have with the old images on them. A branding package would be something that would be implemented over several years, and probably would be a bit of a tough sell on it's own. Great, great idea though- especially for schools that have the cash or boosters to pay for it.

EDIT: STL hit it on the head. I think I was trying to sugar coat it, but he's got it absolutely right.

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Just as a uniform supplier, I do like to offer my schools a branding package as a complimentary part of my service. In my area, a lot of the schools already have great identities and logos, so all I would really have to do is a little tweak here and there. The only thing is, and Bulldog will be the man to talk to about this much more than me, is that it is extremely rare for a school to order full new sets of uniforms for all of it's teams in a year. Aside from the uniforms, you would also have to let the school go through whatever inventory of items they already have with the old images on them. A branding package would be something that would be implemented over several years, and probably would be a bit of a tough sell on it's own. Great, great idea though- especially for schools that have the cash or boosters to pay for it.

EDIT: STL hit it on the head. I think I was trying to sugar coat it, but he's got it absolutely right.

tmorss nailed it. I know for our local teams we try to make something unique each time an individual team orders a set of uniforms. Around here that's usually a four or five year period per team. In those years trends for logos and graphics change and most schools are so small that their logo/brand would only be viable in their particular town or county. When I sell a set of uniforms I try to get something classy and that will wear well. Our current boys basketball logo has been in use since 1986. And frankly most of the high school coaches out there don't even think about their logo or graphics. Most of them leave it up to the supplier and as long as it's spelled correctly they're fine with it.

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I think private schools would be more likely to invest in an identity package, since they have more money to play with.

As mentioned before, most publc high schools don't have the funds to buy new uniforms for every team at once, and are usually at the mercy of their uniform supplier (or even sign maker) for using stock clip art when it comes to branding themselves.

One way to check is to look at specific sports' rules...they often change from year to year, thus warranting the purchase of new uniforms that meet new guidelines. I know thet high school basketball programs that use IAABO/NFHS rules will have to wear white home jerseys by next season. It might me a good idea to check into one you the local programs and check with the athletic director or head coach to see if new uniforms need to be purchased to be compliant, and start with those teams.

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If I was to do this, I would pay attention to you local schools. The schools that are always changing are the schools you'd want to target. These are the schools that have parents that have money. Private schools aren't necessarily the ones you'd be targeting, there are plenty of public school that through their boosters raise money. You'd want to target one of them and pitch your idea to brand them. Will it work? Depends on the school. Out here the last thing I would do is target a private school like Mater Dei or even a public school like Newport Harbor, Los Alamitos, or even Esperanza. Sure they have parents that have money, but they have an established look that you don't mess with. So you have to know your schools, their parents and the trends of uniforms. Basically, you'd have to do at least 5 years of research before you even attempted this. Oh and then throw in the fact that you need to have that chance meeting with someone who mattered.

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Personally if my HS or child's HS invested money in a logo before they invested money in an art program...I'd be pretty freakin' upset. That's coming from a logo designer. A logo designer than never would have realized that's what he wanted to be without his HS arts program.

HS's are gonna have to be pro-bono folks, and they should be. Or like tmorss suggested, throw it in with another service. I'd want to charge a HS just as much as I'd charge any non-profit organization.

5 years of research? Before proposing to do someone's logo? What are you talking about? You do that and someone's going to swoop in and take the business from you. I don't mean you go in half-cocked (or full-cocked) but it doesn't take 5 years to know enough about a company (or school) to give them a proposal.

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I think private schools would be more likely to invest in an identity package, since they have more money to play with.

As mentioned before, most publc high schools don't have the funds to buy new uniforms for every team at once, and are usually at the mercy of their uniform supplier (or even sign maker) for using stock clip art when it comes to branding themselves.

One way to check is to look at specific sports' rules...they often change from year to year, thus warranting the purchase of new uniforms that meet new guidelines. I know thet high school basketball programs that use IAABO/NFHS rules will have to wear white home jerseys by next season. It might me a good idea to check into one you the local programs and check with the athletic director or head coach to see if new uniforms need to be purchased to be compliant, and start with those teams.

Actually, that went in last year. Though football's going to hit that rule in a couple years, where the visitors must wear white.

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PC has a great point- I don't think any of us would disagree that we'd rather make sure a student gets to paint or play the tuba or learn drafting than have the team look like an NFL team. If it weren't for a design class, I'd have never fully realized that I wanted to do what I do.

In quite a few cases (and PC worked on one of these for me) a team member will find something at a mall store and ask a supplier to make something that looks similar to it. Just remember- guys teams want to look like a pro team, girls teams want to look like the Abercrombie catalog. Also, a few of the big companies are starting to go after the more prestigious high school's business like they do colleges. In this area, Massillon (Ohio) is under contract to Nike, but they haven't even done a real redesign. In fact, a few years ago they were still using the Hamilton Tiger-Cat, as well as their "cartoon" tiger (whose name escapes me... Obie?)

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At the high school I teach and coach at we have adopted a common wordmark and logo. In the past each team had their own look. We decided that this wasn't good for our athletic programs. This started at the start of this school year. Each team has boughten into it. As for uniforms, each team will make the switch the next time they get new uniforms. But the logo and wordmark, must appear on team t-shirts and other items. It started off as an athletic department overhaul and now the entire school has picked up on it.

We got the work done by a member of this board at a really good price. We have gotten lots of positive feedback on it.

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You don't waste 5 years on the logo. You take that time to find out which teams change constantly. Those are the ones with the parents with the money. It's not the school that buys the uniforms, etc. of these schools it's the boosters. That's why I said you pay attention to which ones change a lot over a period of time. This has nothing to do with a school and its art program, just like big time college athletics, education and athletics are separate entities. Why do you think when schools can't afford new books or whatever they are lacking, that a school's football team has new uniforms or weight room, it's either the kids raised the money themselves or they have boosters with a lot of money. It's the booster with a lot of money you target.

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You don't waste 5 years on the logo. You take that time to find out which teams change constantly. Those are the ones with the parents with the money. It's not the school that buys the uniforms, etc. of these schools it's the boosters. That's why I said you pay attention to which ones change a lot over a period of time. This has nothing to do with a school and its art program, just like big time college athletics, education and athletics are separate entities. Why do you think when schools can't afford new books or whatever they are lacking, that a school's football team has new uniforms or weight room, it's either the kids raised the money themselves or they have boosters with a lot of money. It's the booster with a lot of money you target.

Ah...I see what you're saying. Take a look back over the last 5 years or so. That makes sense.

I thought you meant wait 5 years to research.

Anyone that's willing to do it...good luck. I'd love to see it work but like I said, I'd hate to see school themselves wasting money on sports logos when there are other things to focus on. If its an Athletic Booster Club, so be it. But if the school district is paying...I'd not a big fan. (unless they are doing well financially...but every art program better be fully funded first...and I'm talking about band, chorus, and theatre too)

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Our school's colors were always Cardinal and Black. About 16 years ago teams started to go with a traditional red to go with the black. It was easier to find uniforms and other sporting goods in the red. Before going with a professional logo and wordmark we got all coaches back to using the cardinal.

It is possible to get more high schools to adopt a logo and wordmark if the AD is approached about it and they want their teams to have a common look.

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Another thing to remember is that high schools, especially rural ones, do merge with one another frequently, eliminating one team identity if not both of them and sometimes requiring the development of a whole new one. Furthermore some schools even have merged teams in some sports but not others. For example, one of my cousins played on a MN state 9-man championship football team for Chokio-Alberta High School (the Spartans, IIRC), then played basketball for Chokio-Alberta/Clinton-Graceville which had a completely different identity (the Thunder, whose logo was nothing special but at least had something to do with the nickname, unlike a certain NBA team). So, if you're looking to make a logo for a school, you should first be reasonably sure that they're still going to be around in their present form for the foreseeable future.

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Another thing to remember is that high schools, especially rural ones, do merge with one another frequently, eliminating one team identity if not both of them and sometimes requiring the development of a whole new one. Furthermore some schools even have merged teams in some sports but not others. For example, one of my cousins played on a MN state 9-man championship football team for Chokio-Alberta High School (the Spartans, IIRC), then played basketball for Chokio-Alberta/Clinton-Graceville which had a completely different identity (the Thunder, whose logo was nothing special but at least had something to do with the nickname, unlike a certain NBA team). So, if you're looking to make a logo for a school, you should first be reasonably sure that they're still going to be around in their present form for the foreseeable future.

Excellent point. My own high school, whose nickname is the Bulldogs and colors are Royal & Orange has allowed our hockey players to form a team with an adjacent school whose colors are Royal & White and are the Blue Devils. A possible nickname kicked around was "Devil Dogs" but that was quickly vetoed. The team is called the Geneseo/Livonia Lakers and wears the Tampa Bay Lightning-style uniforms of Royal, Black & White. The "Lakers" name was chosen because the two schools border Conesus Lake, one of the smaller Finger Lakes in Western New York below Rochester.

It has worked well. Neither school is favored with the identity, both schools have Royal Blue as their primary color, and their is definite meaning to the nickname. A winning combination all around. But in three years there has not been a graphic logo designed as of yet.

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Another thing to remember is that high schools, especially rural ones, do merge with one another frequently, eliminating one team identity if not both of them and sometimes requiring the development of a whole new one. Furthermore some schools even have merged teams in some sports but not others. For example, one of my cousins played on a MN state 9-man championship football team for Chokio-Alberta High School (the Spartans, IIRC), then played basketball for Chokio-Alberta/Clinton-Graceville which had a completely different identity (the Thunder, whose logo was nothing special but at least had something to do with the nickname, unlike a certain NBA team). So, if you're looking to make a logo for a school, you should first be reasonably sure that they're still going to be around in their present form for the foreseeable future.

Excellent point. My own high school, whose nickname is the Bulldogs and colors are Royal & Orange has allowed our hockey players to form a team with an adjacent school whose colors are Royal & White and are the Blue Devils. A possible nickname kicked around was "Devil Dogs" but that was quickly vetoed. The team is called the Geneseo/Livonia Lakers and wears the Tampa Bay Lightning-style uniforms of Royal, Black & White. The "Lakers" name was chosen because the two schools border Conesus Lake, one of the smaller Finger Lakes in Western New York below Rochester.

It has worked well. Neither school is favored with the identity, both schools have Royal Blue as their primary color, and their is definite meaning to the nickname. A winning combination all around. But in three years there has not been a graphic logo designed as of yet.

but these are all rare cases.

If you are looking at this from a business standpoint, write up a letter and send it to every school in your state. You should get at least a few responses. Then maybe if other schools notice, it will catch on. Some cach is gonna see how great another team looks and is going to want his team to look like that. I think the idea has some potential.

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I was thinking about this last night and the thought crossed my mind that even if you did get lucky with a school or two, I just don't see it as turning into anything significant, unless you plan on starting your own uniform manufacturing company. I think you'd probably have a better shot at finding out who does the uniforms and then contacting them to get your designs into high schools. You may not make it with a company such as Nike, but if your designs are good enough, someone might give you a chance. The major problem with this is the problem with all high schools, money. I've known of schools that don't even have a trainer on campus. I'd rather see the kids health on the field/court as more important than a logo or uniform.

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I was thinking about this last night and the thought crossed my mind that even if you did get lucky with a school or two, I just don't see it as turning into anything significant, unless you plan on starting your own uniform manufacturing company. I think you'd probably have a better shot at finding out who does the uniforms and then contacting them to get your designs into high schools. You may not make it with a company such as Nike, but if your designs are good enough, someone might give you a chance. The major problem with this is the problem with all high schools, money. I've known of schools that don't even have a trainer on campus. I'd rather see the kids health on the field/court as more important than a logo or uniform.

You raise some good points. I've been outfitting teams since 1967. I've seen a lot in my 40-plus years in the business. But as others have stated, it all comes down to money and to a lesser extent, the latest fad of the day. I know for a fact that my local high school was the first in the area to have the players' names on the basketball jerseys (1974-detachable name plates). Schools knew that our company had done the work. Did it result in a flood of new business? The answer is "No." Most coaches didn't want to be "bothered" with details like this or there was a money factor, even though we sold the lettered nametags for around $5 each.

And as far as taking your ideas directly to a manufacturer, there isn't much choice out there anymore. Nike is the big dog on the porch right now. Russell does some as does Don Alleson, Teamwork and other cut-and-sew in-stock suppliers. Most of them make a selection of basic styles in the most-popular color combos and provide very basic lettering/graphic services (Clip-Art Central, not a lot of innovative ideas).

The bottom line is that the average coach doesn't have the first clue about uniform design (hey, they're basically just dumb jocks) or the school's budget has strong parameters. All the coach wants is that his uniforms are legal, cheap (inexpensive) and will last for four or five seasons on the varsity level before they are passed down to the junior varsity. It ends up with sum (money) over substance (design, uniqueness). :blink:

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I was thinking about this last night and the thought crossed my mind that even if you did get lucky with a school or two, I just don't see it as turning into anything significant, unless you plan on starting your own uniform manufacturing company. I think you'd probably have a better shot at finding out who does the uniforms and then contacting them to get your designs into high schools. You may not make it with a company such as Nike, but if your designs are good enough, someone might give you a chance. The major problem with this is the problem with all high schools, money. I've known of schools that don't even have a trainer on campus. I'd rather see the kids health on the field/court as more important than a logo or uniform.

You raise some good points. I've been outfitting teams since 1967. I've seen a lot in my 40-plus years in the business. But as others have stated, it all comes down to money and to a lesser extent, the latest fad of the day. I know for a fact that my local high school was the first in the area to have the players' names on the basketball jerseys (1974-detachable name plates). Schools knew that our company had done the work. Did it result in a flood of new business? The answer is "No." Most coaches didn't want to be "bothered" with details like this or there was a money factor, even though we sold the lettered nametags for around $5 each.

And as far as taking your ideas directly to a manufacturer, there isn't much choice out there anymore. Nike is the big dog on the porch right now. Russell does some as does Don Alleson, Teamwork and other cut-and-sew in-stock suppliers. Most of them make a selection of basic styles in the most-popular color combos and provide very basic lettering/graphic services (Clip-Art Central, not a lot of innovative ideas).

The bottom line is that the average coach doesn't have the first clue about uniform design (hey, they're basically just dumb jocks) or the school's budget has strong parameters. All the coach wants is that his uniforms are legal, cheap (inexpensive) and will last for four or five seasons on the varsity level before they are passed down to the junior varsity. It ends up with sum (money) over substance (design, uniqueness). :blink:

speaking as one of the "dumb jocks" B) who also happens to be a coach of two varsity HS sports (football and baseball) I guess I am the rarity who actually designed and continues to tweak my teams' uniforms. all the posts are correct about money being the issue... we fundraise to buy new uniforms for each sport as the high school I teach and coach at runs on a "four-year cycle" for buying new unis. it is extremely frustrating, but it is reality.

I have been able to incorporate some drastic changes in my team's looks over the past 7 years. football unis went from a bizarre screen printed, aztec-looking design to a traditional block, tackle twill jersey. I immediately purchased team socks (striped of course) for the program along with an old-school design of helmet numerals. the reality is that the socks, and helmet decals all come from my pocket. fundraising usually makes up for it..

for my baseball squad I completely redesigned our unis and incorporated a complete road baseball uniform, the first in the state of delaware. It is also mandatory for my players to wear sanitary socks and stirrups! players purchase some of the uni components (caps, sanitaries, and stirrups) wich helps defray costs.

what makes me laugh are the uniform salesmen who are always trying to push the latest horrendous designs and styles in uniform. I"m not sure what their goal is, but I will say that most coaches just go along with the garbage their uni salesman pitches... it takes an incredible amount of time and dedication being uni-conscious as a high school coach, but I would have it no other way!!

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I was thinking about this last night and the thought crossed my mind that even if you did get lucky with a school or two, I just don't see it as turning into anything significant, unless you plan on starting your own uniform manufacturing company. I think you'd probably have a better shot at finding out who does the uniforms and then contacting them to get your designs into high schools. You may not make it with a company such as Nike, but if your designs are good enough, someone might give you a chance. The major problem with this is the problem with all high schools, money. I've known of schools that don't even have a trainer on campus. I'd rather see the kids health on the field/court as more important than a logo or uniform.

You raise some good points. I've been outfitting teams since 1967. I've seen a lot in my 40-plus years in the business. But as others have stated, it all comes down to money and to a lesser extent, the latest fad of the day. I know for a fact that my local high school was the first in the area to have the players' names on the basketball jerseys (1974-detachable name plates). Schools knew that our company had done the work. Did it result in a flood of new business? The answer is "No." Most coaches didn't want to be "bothered" with details like this or there was a money factor, even though we sold the lettered nametags for around $5 each.

And as far as taking your ideas directly to a manufacturer, there isn't much choice out there anymore. Nike is the big dog on the porch right now. Russell does some as does Don Alleson, Teamwork and other cut-and-sew in-stock suppliers. Most of them make a selection of basic styles in the most-popular color combos and provide very basic lettering/graphic services (Clip-Art Central, not a lot of innovative ideas).

The bottom line is that the average coach doesn't have the first clue about uniform design (hey, they're basically just dumb jocks) or the school's budget has strong parameters. All the coach wants is that his uniforms are legal, cheap (inexpensive) and will last for four or five seasons on the varsity level before they are passed down to the junior varsity. It ends up with sum (money) over substance (design, uniqueness). :blink:

speaking as one of the "dumb jocks" B) who also happens to be a coach of two varsity HS sports (football and baseball) I guess I am the rarity who actually designed and continues to tweak my teams' uniforms. all the posts are correct about money being the issue... we fundraise to buy new uniforms for each sport as the high school I teach and coach at runs on a "four-year cycle" for buying new unis. it is extremely frustrating, but it is reality.

I have been able to incorporate some drastic changes in my team's looks over the past 7 years. football unis went from a bizarre screen printed, aztec-looking design to a traditional block, tackle twill jersey. I immediately purchased team socks (striped of course) for the program along with an old-school design of helmet numerals. the reality is that the socks, and helmet decals all come from my pocket. fundraising usually makes up for it..

for my baseball squad I completely redesigned our unis and incorporated a complete road baseball uniform, the first in the state of delaware. It is also mandatory for my players to wear sanitary socks and stirrups! players purchase some of the uni components (caps, sanitaries, and stirrups) wich helps defray costs.

what makes me laugh are the uniform salesmen who are always trying to push the latest horrendous designs and styles in uniform. I"m not sure what their goal is, but I will say that most coaches just go along with the garbage their uni salesman pitches... it takes an incredible amount of time and dedication being uni-conscious as a high school coach, but I would have it no other way!!

Coach, you remind me of my old coach/athletic director and scores of guys who were around when I first started selling uniforms. Most all of them took pride in how their teams looked because the team image reflected on the town, school, coach, players and family. It may sound corny but if you look good uni-wise you usually play good. A lot of the schools I've outfitted through the years have stayed with the basics as far as style and color on the chance they would have to fill in with extra uniforms on occasion.

A lot of schools around here buy the players' caps, hose, warm-up jackets and such through fund-raisers. My local high school baseball team has a pizza sale that defrays some costs for incidental equipment.

And I know salesmen who always push the latest fad uniforms. These styles are usually over-priced, take forever to make because of the "demand" for them (oh, you've got to look just like North Carolina or Duke or Ohio State if you want to be "in") and generally fall out of favor in a couple of years until the next new "fad" comes out by Nike or Reebok or adidas. All these salesmen see are dollar signs. Which a lot of programs can't really afford (when's the last time these big-shot companies gave you a break on the price? Can you say "never?"- Hey, gotta help pay the latest LeBron James' $57-trillion endorsement deal. Why not have the suckers in high school foot part of the cost?).

If you want repeat business you give them a good product that's "timeless" in design work within their budget. You'll get more repeat orders because of a low-pressure sales pitch than you ever will by looking like a snake-oil salesman.

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