UI working with Nike for rebranding of the Illini

By Allan Brettman

Among Nike-branded schools in the Big Ten, Ohio State and Michigan State are the star players.

Nike’s promotion of the two universities may have to do with both consistently landing at or near the peak of top-25 football and basketball rankings. The footwear and apparel company regularly bestows new uniform iterations on the Buckeyes and Spartans. Both football teams also are repeat helmet customers with Hydro Graphics, Inc., the Newberg company that, with Nike’s guidance, has redefined what a helmet should look like.

Illinois, which lost 71-64 Saturday evening to the Oregon Ducks at the Moda Center, is working with Nike to create its own distinct brand. University and Nike officials have been collaborating for about a year on the rebranding, Mark Morris, Illinois director of basketball operations, said before the game.

The rebranding will affect all aspects of Illinois athletics, Morris said, not just football and basketball. And, like Nike-involved efforts with other schools, the rebranding has cast a wide net, with interviews involving coaches, players, students and alumni.

Warren Hood, senior associate athletic director for external relations, and Marty Kaufmann, associate athletic director, are working most closely with Nike on the rebranding, said Derrick Burson, sports information director.

In addition to Ohio State, Michigan State and Illinois, Nike also has apparel deals with Iowa, Minnesota, Penn State (the alma mater of Nike chief executive Mark Parker) and Purdue. Adidas outfits Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. Under Armour has Northwestern.