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USF’s about face

The USF athletics department is getting a makeover. Gone is the green and yellow side profile Bull, replaced as the school’s logo Tuesday by an iconic “U” resembling a Bull’s horns. The move is part of sweeping changes to the university’s image as the football team gears up for its first season in Conference USA.

“These logos are dynamic and action-orientated, and that’s what USF is all about,” President Judy Genshaft said in a news release Tuesday upon the logo’s unveiling.

But more than just putting a cosmetic change on USF sports, the new logo, along with two secondary word marks and a Bull crest, is the focus of a new effort to push USF as a commodity.

“We’re going into conference and the university wanted to work on branding,” said Tom Veit, associate athletics director of marketing and business development. “We’re going to be seen on national TV a lot more, so now was the correct time to re-brand.”

According to Veit, the old logo had lost its usefulness. After doing good business when it was released eight years ago, merchandise sporting the Bull logo had sold less than $100,000 during the past few years.

“The least thing about this change was the look,” Veit said. “A lot of this was about the usage. The old one was designed by an ad agency years ago. It was one-dimensional and it doesn’t show well on TV or from far away. And the red-eye was costing us quite a bit of money.

“It did great the first year, but with that logo, you couldn’t create different things. From a marketing, branding, usability standpoint, it was hard to work with.”

The new design is created by the Silverman Group in New Haven, Conn., which has done marks for the NHL, NBA, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars as well as multiple NAIA and NCAA schools. The Silverman Group took three months to come up with the design and according to Veit, it cost less than $30,000. The goal was to have a look more fitting with the university’s new mark.

“We were trying to bring a clean, simple and professional look to USF,” Silverman Group vice president Marc Jacobson said. “Something that was timeless and got the respect and excitement of the alumni and faculty.”

With numerous other teams and universities nicknamed Bulls, Jacobson’s designers set out to find USF a niche. The result was the U-shaped horns, though Jacobson said the design was unrelated to similar marks used by the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and Houston Texans of the NFL.

“We wanted a somewhat different Bull since a number of pro teams, colleges and hockey teams use Bulls,” Jacobson said. “We were careful that it was distinctive to USF and nobody else. We felt it was timeless and would build equity in the brand.”

To help ensure USF’s new branding doesn’t fall on hard times after its honeymoon period, the university has partnered with the Collegiate Licensing Company. Among its clientele are 180 universities (Notre Dame, Penn State and LSU, among others), most of the major Division I conferences (ACC, Big XII and C-USA) and many bowl games. The CLC will assist USF in the brand protection and retail exposure of the new logo.

“Our basic business is managing comprehensively the university’s trademark and licensing,” said Bill Battle, CLC Chairman of the Board. “We find licensees and manage and monitor product and distribution channels. We work mostly with administration and marketing to get the university’s products distributed on a wider basis — from local to regional and regional to national, if the case presents itself.”

The CLC has clients in 47 states and already has USF involved with the VF Corporation, which owns apparel maker Nutmeg Mills. The CLC also has state schools Florida, Florida State, Miami, UCF and North Florida in its cache. But the CLC doesn’t make any promises about what it will do for the Bulls.

“We get licensees and retailers who don’t have those schools in the mix to test these schools out,” Battle said. “We’re able to do that with our leverage and hopefully, expand their profile geographically.

“We understand what they’ve done in the past and what their positive selling points are. We want to get people interested in the university and its marks and take them as far as it can. But we don’t perform miracles. I can’t tell them we will double or triple revenues.”

The CLC didn’t release exact figures, but most schools typically make 7 1/2 to 8 percent on their royalty rates on merchandise. USF will also receive advance fees in the hundreds of dollars for different types of merchandise. According to Battle, the CLC makes a percentage of the gross based on a sliding scale.

“If they don’t generate money, then we won’t make money,” Battle said.

Veit, for one, thinks CLC’s expertise will help USF more than recoup the cost of the new logo in the first year. The biggest problem for USF in the past was getting its image out to a wide range of retailers and CLC’s name and recognition will better position the Bulls in the marketplace.

“The CLC opens doors for USF,” Veit said. “They have clout, where before, we had to deal with three or four or five different licensers. But the CLC has relationships with hundreds of business. Our old partner didn’t. The CLC has consolidated most of the NCAA under one force.”

Veit also downplayed the significance of other costs associated with the move, saying most teams change jerseys every few years if not annually, anyway. Also, the basketball court was up for resurfacing this year. All of which will be insignificant if USF’s new logo and branding can enhance its image.

“BMW makes several different models, but you know one when you see it,” Veit said.