Abilene Christian University introduced a new intercollegiate athletics identity Friday morning for the first time in 16 years, with a high-energy video followed by student-athletes and cheerleaders distributing free merchandise to several thousand students at the end of Chapel in Moody Coliseum.
A week-long multimedia campaign proclaiming “There's a New Cat in Town” capped two years of work on a new logo, and celebrated ACU's heritage in athletics as it prepares to begin NCAA Division I and Southland Conference play this fall.
In 1997, the primary motivation to change athletics identities was to create a more realistic wildcat to replace one used on football helmets and occasionally on merchandise for more than 20 years.
In 2013, ACU officials wanted to bring the marketing of its athletics program into a new era in which branding is important and competition is fierce for the attention of fans and prospective students. One objective was to create a consistent look for teams on and off the field, especially in a new era in which the Wildcats will receive an increasing amount of national visibility.
“Clearly, we don't change athletics logos often, and we began exploring this process more than a year before we knew we'd be changing conferences and looking seriously at Division I,” said athletics director Jared Mosley. “Regardless of our NCAA affiliation, we wanted a fresh start with our logo, knowing it would inject new enthusiasm into athletics at ACU. As it turned out, we believe the logo re-branding will give us great momentum as we head into Southland Conference play.”
A project team was formed in 2011 between ACU's University Marketing and Athletics, with the Creative Services office searching for a design firm with which to partner. Several months later, it selected award-winning Ohio company Rickabaugh Graphics, whose deep portfolio and experience developing athletics identities for more than 70 universities was hard to ignore.
Rickabaugh has created or updated athletics brands for many Division I universities, including Ohio State, Baylor, Texas, Connecticut, Vanderbilt, Marquette, North Carolina State, Seton Hall and Central Florida.
“We wanted to create the best wildcat logo in intercollegiate athletics, and we believe we found it,” said Ron Hadfield, assistant vice president for university communication. “And we wanted to do this right, with steps along the way to seek and build consensus, and honor teamwork within the university. It's been a great experience and we believe the new identity will help build spirit and pride among Wildcat fans of all ages.”
“We thoroughly enjoyed being part of creating a new image for the Wildcats,” said Eric Rickabaugh, president of Rickabaugh Graphics. “ACU stakeholders were very involved throughout the process and their input helped tremendously in the shaping of the new look. We believe the new logos capture the energy and pride of your university and its great tradition of intercollegiate athletics.”
The two-year design process included market research; focus groups of more than 100 coaches, student-athletes, fans, donors, faculty and staff; development of a Athletics Graphics Standards guide; and creation of two custom fonts and number sets to use on uniforms and marketing materials. The new wildcat is part of package of artwork including a primary logo, secondary marks and sport-specific marks. Details can be seen on the ACU Today magazine blog and at a website about the university's move to NCAA Division I.
ACU chose another award-winning company, Old Hat Creative, to produce a short video to celebrate the university's athletics heritage and help reveal the new logo. Old Hat Creative, based in Norman, Okla., is a full-service creative agency with a clientele spanning major universities around the NCAA, including Michigan, Notre Dame, Duke, Miami (Fla.), Florida State, TCU, Texas A&M, Clemson, Wisconsin and Syracuse.
“We are honored to be a part of this historic day,” said Bethany Brenkus, client representative for Old Hat Creative. “ACU has so many traditions and history that the video will be sure to give you goosebumps. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for ACU as they begin this new adventure.”
The video includes historic footage and images of Olympians, world record holders, national champions and all-America student-athletes who have competed for ACU, including Bobby Morrow, Billy Olson, Delloreen Ennis-London, Wilbert Montgomery, Ove Johannson, Bernard Scott, Jennifer Clarkson Frazier, John Ray Godfrey, Nicodemus Naimadu and Alex Carpenter.
While uniforms and other apparel for Wildcat teams take months to manufacture and won't fully be seen until Fall 2013, merchandising work has already begun, with new products available at The Campus Store and at ACU Wildcat Gear. The floor of Moody Coliseum, on which ACU basketball games and volleyball matches are played, will display new graphics later this summer as part of regularly scheduled maintenance and refurbishment.
Early next week, ACU also plans to announce a three-year partnership with a major athletics apparel company that would supply uniforms, practice gear and equipment for its 16 Wildcat teams.
Only three universities – UCLA, Stanford and USC – have won more NCAA national team championships than ACU.
Information provided by ACU athletics department.