Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Razorbacks logo more than just a brand
University of Arkansas student-athletes model newly designed uniforms featuring a unified design across all sports during the third annual HOGSPY Awards ceremony Monday, April 21, 2014, at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Until former Chancellor John White and the 2007 University of Arkansas Board of Trustees ushered in this era of Razorbacks gone corporate, the Razorbacks never required a “brand.”
Texas Longhorns were branded. Razorbacks - in reality feral hogs running free, too free, some contend concerning the animals’ penchant for mayhem - certainly were not branded.
As the University of Arkansas athletics symbol, the Razorback also was not a “brand” but so uniquely above a brand that calling it a brand could only demean and diminish.
Cans of beans and cartons of cigarettes have brands. Brands existed centuries before “branding” became a relatively recent corporate buzzword of inflated importance.
The Arkansas Razorbacks weren’t a brand. They were an intangible yet real and uniquely integral life fabric weaved throughout Arkansas, binding and uniting this state like nothing else and nowhere else.
Frank Broyles experienced that marvel in 1948 the first time he visited Fayetteville as a young Baylor assistant. It began a dream Broyles has fulfilled since December 1957 variously as Arkansas’ head football coach, athletic director and since 2008 athletic director emeritus.
Those lettering during Broyles’ reign and before didn’t letter for a brand. They lettered for Arkansas.
Today’s UA athletes apparently letter for a “Razorback brand identity program.”
That it takes layers of high priced bureaucracy and a millionaire athletic director plus Nike to identify the Razorback with Arkansas normally would perplex us. But we all know it’s all about a corporate merger selling shirts.
“We are pleased to introduce an update to our Razorback brand identity program,” Athletic Director Jeff Long said through a news release Monday announcing that Nike and the UA “have collaborated on a nearly two-year brand evolution program to enhance and modernize the celebrated marks of the university.”
Over time, the Hog symbol and the uniforms and equipment it adorns have evolved with alterations. After all, the UA reports it was 1910 when UA students voted to change from Cardinal to Coach Hugo Bezdek’s description of his Arkansas team as “a wild band of Razorbacks.”
However, it seems the recent years’ alterations became more forced than evolving.
Nike could profit handsomely down to junior high teams when colleges follow suit to the practically Nike-owned University of Oregon Ducks, who wear more uniforms than Cher dons costumes. Nike partnering with Arkansas and others can multiply the multi-uniforms trend.
In 2012 the UA and Nike altered the Razorbacks’ traditional red and white occasionally to interject “anthracite gray,” a hue considerably more Arkansas State black than anything the Razorbacks had worn.
Soon the Razorbacks may include the pure black threads customarily worn by Arkansas State that ASU mixes with red.
According to Monday’s news release: “The color black is sophisticated and powerful, and has been added to the secondary color palette for limited use.”
Since Monday’s unveiling of the forward-facing Razorback, some Arkansas fans have said and posted with dismay that they see a resemblance to Arkansas State’s forward-facing Red Wolf.
So while remaining unwilling to play ASU, to some it seems the “rebranded” UA seems unwittingly willing to imitate ASU.
Sports, Pages 22 on 04/26/2014