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Colleges Using Athletic Logos as Primary Marks...


jstraper

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I had thought about posting this months ago, but never is this topic more relevant than this moment. Universities seem intent on using or incorporating athletic logos as primary marks for the school, beyond athletics: encompassing academics and reputation. For example:

University_of_Miami_logo.png

Previous Mark

umiami.jpg

Current Mark

oregonm.jpg

Current Mark

When the University of Miami decided to utilize "The U" as a primary mark in 2009, I was actually quite disappointed. Visually it's fine, but I immediately felt it to be a bit tacky to leverage the entire school's identity by mixing sports and academia; sport is a singular aspect of the University -- albeit, in many cases, the best marketing tool for a school -- but that doesn't mean it's best for the school as a whole.

Now that the University of Miami and University of Oregon are finding themselves in ongoing scandals, having "The U" associated with UM severely lowers the perception of the University. Big time. All of the work that the school put in for improvements leading to a tremendous rise in rankings in the past decade is now tainted. It seems as if the school decided to go "all-in" on athletics as being the primary draw and face of the school. Now it's backfired.

If I were to consult a school on the idea of using an athletic mark to market the school overall, I would question if a school needs to be exposed to so much risk. Am I overreaching here or being a realist?

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Wordmarks are generally known by the majority of the public, so colleges and universities embrace them more to from their know identity. Therefore, while you see them many times as a child on the athletic foeld or court, they still are part of the school's total identity package. They are also versatile in terms of business cards and letterhead for various departments.

A college/university seal is used for documents at the Chancellor/President/Board level only to signify their official nature since a commercial usage of a seal is typically not permitted (in some cases of a state school, by law).

That said, some schools can pull it off well, like Illinois' "column I", in terms of printing and publication costs, one wordmark is simpler.

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Wordmarks are generally known by the majority of the public, so colleges and universities embrace them more to from their know identity. Therefore, while you see them many times as a child on the athletic foeld or court, they still are part of the school's total identity package. They are also versatile in terms of business cards and letterhead for various departments.

A college/university seal is used for documents at the Chancellor/President/Board level only to signify their official nature since a commercial usage of a seal is typically not permitted (in some cases of a state school, by law).

I agree with your statement, but I was not referring to the official seals. Miami's switch from a standard campus-wide logo to a standard campus-wide logo that incorporates athletics is the key to this. I don't believe it's wise to put all eggs in one basket and align the entire university with athletics -- you're [perceived] only as good as the level of performance of the athletic programs.

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I work for the University of South Florida. There are strict rules in place about what logos can and cannot be used on various media. Specifically, I work for USF Health - Department of Pediatrics. We can't use any of the athletic "Bulls" logos in any of our media/business cards/website/etc... They try to keep both of those identities as far away from each other as possible and I kind of agree that it's a good policy.

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I work for the University of South Florida. There are strict rules in place about what logos can and cannot be used on various media. Specifically, I work for USF Health - Department of Pediatrics. We can't use any of the athletic "Bulls" logos in any of our media/business cards/website/etc... They try to keep both of those identities as far away from each other as possible and I kind of agree that it's a good policy.

Yeah I agree. Mixing sport and academics (or other aspects) just feels like selling out. By the way, I was one of the few who actually like the USF vs. Miami series and I hope it's continued in some fashion.

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When I see an athletic logo I think of that school, athletics, academics, campus, everything. Right or wrong the U makes me think of Miami not just Miami athletics. Because of this the schools have started catering to this and are making athletic logos become school logos. If i get a letter with that U on it, it feels much more special than the cheam 90's looking wordmark.

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When I see an athletic logo I think of that school, athletics, academics, campus, everything. Right or wrong the U makes me think of Miami not just Miami athletics. Because of this the schools have started catering to this and are making athletic logos become school logos. If i get a letter with that U on it, it feels much more special than the cheam 90's looking wordmark.

And that's exactly how one should feel, it's what the schools are going for. However if you were a parent paying for your son or daughter's education, how can that not bother you? The credibility of the school is greatly diminished, in my opinion, when athletics and the school overall are tied together.

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I know plenty of high schools, and even elementary schools, that put their mascot - the one they use for sports - on their sign, their website, their letterhead, etc. Is this cheapening local education?

How many of those local schools are involved in a highly media-scrutinized, illegal benefits scandal that has allegedly occurred for nearly a decade?

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I know plenty of high schools, and even elementary schools, that put their mascot - the one they use for sports - on their sign, their website, their letterhead, etc. Is this cheapening local education?

How many of those local schools are involved in a highly media-scrutinized, illegal benefits scandal that has allegedly occurred for nearly a decade?

However, it's the scandal at an institution is what damages the institution, regardless of the wordmark(s) affiliated with it.

The murder of Yeardley Love will always be known as the "Virginia lacrosse murder" even though that the school has a distinct athletic wordmark apart from their school wide system guidelines. Even while separate, more people will recognize that athletic mark because the public will have a much greater chance of seeing it.

Using your logic, an airline must change their livery following any issue with an aircraft or a collision.

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When I see an athletic logo I think of that school, athletics, academics, campus, everything. Right or wrong the U makes me think of Miami not just Miami athletics. Because of this the schools have started catering to this and are making athletic logos become school logos. If i get a letter with that U on it, it feels much more special than the cheam 90's looking wordmark.

And that's exactly how one should feel, it's what the schools are going for. However if you were a parent paying for your son or daughter's education, how can that not bother you? The credibility of the school is greatly diminished, in my opinion, when athletics and the school overall are tied together.

I don't think their academic credibility is greatly diminished per se when they use their athletics and school marks together. On the other hand, it's harder to insulate your academic identity when it's tied to the mast of your athletic identity, so when a scandal hits the athletic department, it could easily have more of a negative effect on the academic reputation of the university. I'll be interested in seeing how this affects Miami's ability to attract good students--it's a sort of reverse Flutie effect (I suppose USC and SMU would be good case studies as well).

Combining the two marks gives the appearance of collusion or at least complicity between athletics and academic, for better or worse. Beneficial when your sports teams are generally successful and clean and harmful when your teams are generally terrible or dirty.

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I know plenty of high schools, and even elementary schools, that put their mascot - the one they use for sports - on their sign, their website, their letterhead, etc. Is this cheapening local education?

How many of those local schools are involved in a highly media-scrutinized, illegal benefits scandal that has allegedly occurred for nearly a decade?

However, it's the scandal at an institution is what damages the institution, regardless of the wordmark(s) affiliated with it.

The murder of Yeardley Love will always be known as the "Virginia lacrosse murder" even though that the school has a distinct athletic wordmark apart from their school wide system guidelines. Even while separate, more people will recognize that athletic mark because the public will have a much greater chance of seeing it.

Using your logic, an airline must change their livery following any issue with an aircraft or a collision.

Comparing airlines to a university is not comparable. An airline provides a singular service: transportation from point A to B. A university's primary mission is, in general, to educate. There are many more things that encompass the college or university "experience", athletics being one of them (and often the most visible aspect).

Will the school change the identity? Should they? Unlikely. It should serve as an example for future schools to greatly consider the risks and benefits. Athletics provide exposure. Exposure brings in money which is the quickest way for overall school-wide development. Alabama and Texas (among others) have balanced it well (of course they aren't exactly among the best academic institutions in the country, though they still provide quality education). It still feels a bit dirty and it's hardly harmless.

Mingjai summed it up the best.

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Isn't it just good branding if you stick to one campus/program wide logo?

This may have merit, but it just reinforces higher education as a business. It's too bad. I'm not naive enough to think any school in the US isn't run the same way though.

For Miami I would prefer the official seal as a primary mark, or perhaps a modified version with the sun and palm tree. Athletics are one component of the university experience. I don't personally want an outsider to see umiami.jpg and immediately connote "football". But they will.

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I see no problem in a university using the athletic logo. Saying it shouldn't is tantamount to saying athletics aren't part of the university.

Let's put it this way -- you look at the Indiana interlocking IU. The IU stands for University of Indiana (or, if you prefer, University of Indiana). It doesn't say Hoosiers. It says Indiana, the university. And if it says Indiana, the university, it says all areas of the university.

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