Illini athletics prepare for Nike rebrand


Illinois’ Aaron Bailey (15) is passing the ball to Josh Ferguson (6) during the annual Orange and Blue Spring Game at Memorial Stadium, on Saturday, April 12, 2014. The Blue team won 38-7.

By By: Stephen Bourbon

After Wednesday night, the look of Illinois’ athletics programs will be different.

Following an 18-month collaboration with Nike, Illinois will unveil a full-scale rebrand of logos, uniforms and brand at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Wednesday’s event is the first of back-to-back events to kick off the new era. A lunchtime event is scheduled for Thursday at Niketown in Chicago.

“It’s been a while since we’ve looked at our logos and how we are branded. We felt like we needed to update our brands and our marks and move them into the 21st Century,” athletic director Mike Thomas said in a video previewing the rebrand. The Division of Intercollegiate Athletics refused interview requests on this subject. 

All 19 varsity sports will be overhauled to create a unified brand and mark across the athletics programs.

“It’s unique. Not everyone gets to do it,” football head coach Tim Beckman said. “You’re trying to move your program forward, and this is one of the things that can move it forward.”

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    Beckman said all the varsity head coaches, along with equipment managers, have seen the new gear. However, no other position coaches or players on the team have seen the new gear.

    One of the main goals of the rebrand is to establish a singular identity and consistency throughout the sports.

    “They were looking for consistency. There were many, many oranges,” said Clint Shaner, senior graphic designer for Nike, in a promotional video released by the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics. “It really varied sport to sport, and they wanted to feel like they were all a part of one school and have one color palette.”

    A key theme of the whole process has been updating the look of Illini athletics, while still maintaining a traditional look. Nike’s tagline for the rebrand is, “Respect the past. Represent the future.”

    “It brings together the past and the future,” Beckman said. “It’s cool.”

    The last Nike redesign in the Big Ten was Michigan State’s rebrand in 2010. Similarly to Illinois, Michigan State was seeking “one focus” to unify their logos across athletics. The goals set for its rebrand included reestablishing traditional colors of “Spartan Green and White,” as well as the introduction of “Spartan Silver and Bronze” as secondary accent colors. In addition, the Spartans trademarked a primary identity of a Spartan helmet logo to go along with an additional mark of the “MSU Shield” logo. Michigan State athletics also trademarked Spartan typography for “Michigan State” and “Spartans” in the logos.

    One concern about the whole process is having leaks beforehand. On Tuesday afternoon, had just one item of Illini apparel – a pair of basketball shorts – with what looks like a new font for “Illinois” on the side. The lettering has not been confirmed as a new design from Nike. The pair of shorts was up on the site for a few hours before it was taken down.

    Nike has a history of having new logos leaked on the Internet before other rebrand unveilings. Florida State announced its rebrand on Friday, although its new logo was leaked on a T-shirt at a Walmart store nine days before the scheduled unveiling. Michigan State’s logo alteration in 2010 leaked before the initial announcement when a message board posted the new logo after looking online through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. After negative backlash from the fans, the MSU administration decided to keep the same logo and ditch the new concept.

    New Illinois apparel from Nike will be available at Gameday Spirit and T.I.S. Bookstore beginning April 17. 

    “I’ve seen it. I think it’s awesome,” Beckman said. “I think it’ll be very well received.”

    Stephen can be reached at [email protected] and @steve_bourbon.