The Branding Bowl: The Tide vs. The Ducks

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Posted At: November 14, 2013 10:15 a.m.

by Lexi Holdbrooks

The great thing about college football is that it is not just the game that makes the sport. Each team across the nation is represented by a brand that is incorporated into all aspects of football life. From the uniforms to the attire of the student section, the branding process is meticulously thought out.

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but just one look at that flat screen TV in your living room and you can tell a whole lot about the team you’re watching.

The Oregon Ducks have a major brand campaign that not only highlights the intimidating nature of the team but distinctively sets them apart from other NCAA teams. Typically florescent yellow against black, the Ducks’ uniforms are constantly changing, and football lovers rave over each weekend’s choice of uniforms.

Some wonder what turned Oregon’s one-hundred-year losing streak around, and the change seems attributable to its partnership with Nike. It is no secret that Nike’s co-founder Phil Knight attended the University of Oregon. Additionally, Nike headquarters is located only 100 miles away.

This partnership allows the Ducks to grab the attention of the public and media by way of uniforms. The team has not found its identity through coaching, fans or players but more through the attire that represents the fortitude behind the team.

Nike Creative Director Todd Van Horne described the branding process of the uniforms as pricey and innovative.

“The paint for the dark green helmets was made with glass beads and cost $2,400 a gallon,” Van Horne said. “They look hatched from an alien pod, sent to Earth to seek first downs and souvenir sales.”

On Oct. 19, 2013, Oregon stepped on the field supporting breast cancer research with neon pink helmets, gloves and socks. The media talked more about this fantastic representation of breast cancer awareness on the field than the team’s whopping win over the Washington State Cougars (62-38).

Now, Oregon not only dominates on the football field, but the Ducks use their uniforms to their advantage. It’s not just about the plays they make, but also the dark, ominous design of their uniforms that makes them stand out from a crowd.

In stark contrast to Oregon, you have the dynastic and traditional University of Alabama. UA bases its branding off of tradition. And when it comes to tradition, Alabama knows what it’s doing.

The University of Alabama’s dynasty in football is hard to match. On the opposite spectrum from Oregon, this team wears simple, traditional attire that seems to coincide with the players, the coach and the fans. Alabama’s uniforms have hardly changed over the years, which is true of most SEC teams.

What sets Alabama apart from other teams, besides its 15 national championships, are the coaches, specifically Nick Saban and Paul Bryant, the Bear. The team is branded behind the image of these straight shooting, no BS, “ain’t nothin’ but a winner” kind of leaders. In fact, the Tide wouldn’t have houndstooth without the Bear.

You hardly ever hear a sportscaster commenting on Alabama’s uniforms and this is because of Nick Saban’s tie to tradition. When asked about UA’s response to other team uniform changes at a news conference in fall of 2011, Nick Saban spoke of tradition and football.

“I think there’s a brand, there’s an expectation of what people expect to see when Alabama plays football,” he said. “That’s all over the country. That’s a brand that has sort of been developed for how many years? You know, definitely since Coach (Paul) Bryant’s been here. And all the years past that. So just for some marketing whim? I’m not really into that.”

Team branding gives fans something to relate to and connect with on a personal level. It also gives way to fantastic rivalries such as the new age Ducks demanding a match up against the old age Crimson Tide. If you haven’t heard the chants yet, the Ducks wanted Bama. Unfortantley the kids spoke too soon, but we can hope for a branding match up next season.

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