By Randy York
If every status has a symbol, and every brand lives in values that already exist, Nebraska’s brand is in good hands. It is the sum of all the hearts and minds that understand our purpose, and it reflects our commitment to excellence.
Yes, we relish our far-reaching brand recognition because we’ve earned respect the old-fashioned way – through integrity, trust, teamwork and loyalty. But even an athletic department that has the best record in college football over the past 50 years, plus 50 consecutive years of sellout home football crowds, has to push the refresh button every 30 years or so.
In the next day or two, Nebraska will inform its licensees and retailers that a new secondary logo has been created, and more than likely, that logo will start showing up on such goods as caps, t-shirts, hats and clocks early next year, if not later this year. We offer up a word of caution for all Nebraska alumni, UNL students and Big Red fans: Do not be alarmed, even for one second.
Mission: Become a Leading Brand in College Athletics
“Our mission is to be a leading brand in college athletics, and when we refresh our brand, it moves us forward, not back,” said Michael Stephens, Nebraska’s assistant athletic director for Marketing and Licensing. “We feel strongly that an update to our secondary logos has been in store for some time. While our current N Huskers logo has served us well, a new mark will assist as we move our brand forward.”
Stephens admits he’s as steeped in Nebraska’s tradition-rich history as anyone, but he also knows that the most powerful logos on earth need development just as much as they need management and protection.
“We work hard every day to be sure and use our powerful resources to establish one of the most prominent brands in the marketplace,” said Stephens, whose team has been working with The Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), headquartered in Atlanta.
Licensing Agency Has Satisfied Top-Tier Clients
A division of global sports and entertainment giant IMG College, CLC is the oldest and largest collegiate trademark licensing agency in the United States. Besides 200 colleges and universities, CLC counts the Heisman Trophy, the NCAA, bowl games and athletic conferences among its clients.
“We’ve been a satisfied client of CLC for more than 20 years,” Stephens said. “Their creative department consistently listens to what we need and has been a great partner on this project. When you collaborate to tighten design, the result is a finished product that is fresh but matched who we are.”
Essentially, Nebraska took the two current “word” brands – the “N” in the middle of Memorial Stadium’s field and the “Huskers” etched in the North end zone – and “pulled those two logos together to form our new secondary mark,” Stephens said. “Our goal for this project is consistent with our mission – move our brand forward but don’t forget who we are.”
The Iron N: A Powerful Conversation Starter
Remember, secondary is a key word in this brand discussion. “Our primary mark will continue to be our Iron N,” Stephens said. “That’s our trademark, and everyone will continue to see that Iron N extending throughout our arenas, our uniforms and our publications.”
Because the Iron N inherently stands for Nebraska, it is, was and always will symbolize the quality of Nebraska Athletics. That “N” does what rock-solid brands do – begins conversations not only among Big Red loyalists, but also among fans from other programs who respect every red N on white Husker helmets.
Speaking of helmets, that logo received a recent update to match the look of today’s helmets more closely. The slight alteration was so imperceptible that anyone who might have noticed did not contact us to ask about it.
New Logos Transcend Angst, Build the Brand
Every nuance has been carefully considered, calculated and tied into the brand equity that the N and all the other word marks already have.
“Anytime you change the logo of an established brand, we’re aware that it might cause some angst,” Stephens said. “But we believe that the look of our new logo will help us move past that and become the building block that will strengthen our brand – now and into the future.”
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