A much needed rebrand

By Erik Prado

Every year some type of survey or opinion comes out examining the best jerseys in all of sports. The best ones are those that are simple and have been around for decades. I’m looking at you, Alabama.

Yet the latest craze in sports has been rebranding. Every year teams come out with some funky designs. Even Northern Illinois of the MAC had some new designs for the 2013 Orange Bowl and again late last season. Each new design is heavily promoted, and the fans mostly applaud.

Come next Wednesday, Illinois will become the latest school to unveil some new designs and uniforms, and it’s the perfect time to do so.

No one but the design team at Nike and maybe a select few on campus know what this rebrand will look like. To the non-jersey fashionistas, some new jerseys can’t be all that exciting.

But to the die-hard fans of not only Illinois, but also other teams, a rebrand could signify the beginning of a new era or phase of the program.

Take a look at the Oregon Ducks. Prior to roughly 2000 they had the standard, run of the mill uniform package. During the 2000s the Ducks shook things up. Uniforms featured bold designs. Shoes became shiny and helmets became matte.

Every year some new uniform combination was added. Oregon has built up its fan base around the country simply because people want to see the uniforms they wear and wear their own Ducks apparel. 

Is it also no coincidence that since 2000, Oregon has had one of the top football programs in the country? Do not underestimate the effect shiny, outlandish uniforms and other swag has on high school recruits.

Elsewhere, the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks also had a Nike rebrand in 2012. The Nike effect was highly praised at the time and the team effectively showed off the “swoosh” in their handling of Denver.

New uniforms alone cannot deliver the wins. The Nike swoosh hasn’t helped the Jacksonville Jaguars all that much. But it’s okay to have some wishy-washy optimism because Illini fans don’t have much else to get their hopes up for.

The school desperately needs this. The Chief is no longer the symbol of the University. Since 2007, the University has had no unifying symbol or logo. Some teams use one logo while others use a different one. Walk into any store and multiple Illinois designs are folded on the shelves.

The Alma Mater is back. She, along with this rebrand, can bring some unity back to campus. New football uniforms can also drive up interest for the upcoming football season. So maybe, just maybe, Block I will be filled to half capacity this season.

Erik is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @e_prada.