Let's talk about #brands. More specifically, let's talk about Illinois' #brand. The university teamed up with long-time apparel partner Nike about two years ago to create an updated identity for the athletic department. The project yielded new uniforms, typography, colors, and -- most importantly -- official logos for every scholarship sport.
Let's quickly take a look at how recruits (read: one of the effort's primary target demographics) have reacted to the new marks.
Blessed to say I've received an offer from the University of Illinois #Blessed pic.twitter.com/D8J5L36La1— Devodrick Johnson (@foebg_) May 20, 2016
Blessed and honored to say that I've received my 1st offer from THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS #WeWillWin #Blessed pic.twitter.com/REx715SP0J— Cameron Thomas (@BillionaireCam_) May 19, 2016
Blessed to say I've received an offer from the university of Illinois! #Illini pic.twitter.com/SU3CkOj8M3— Will Sherman (@TheWilllSherman) May 19, 2016
Blessed to receive an offer from the University of Illinois‼️‼️ #GoIllini pic.twitter.com/UBWehXMvLV— Howard Watkins Jr (@Howard_558) May 19, 2016
I could easily post 100 other similar tweets, but a theme doesn't take long to develop. Recruits rarely post correct logos to social media when they receive scholarship offers from Illinois. Let's be clear, though -- it isn't their fault for the mixup. A likely reaction to an offer would probably be something along the lines of, "Wow! Awesome! Gonna go tweet out an Illini logo to announce this news to my friends, family." There's only a small problem with that.
What shows up when you Google 'Illinois Logo'?
Only 2 of the 16 initial images are the updated athletic logos. Not good, Bob. If you're a prospective student athlete with no prior knowledge of the school, which one are you going to tweet out? Probably not the weird shield thing or the dark Orange one. But this is at least understandable because all those variations of the Block I were correct at some point. It takes time for new stuff to populate search engines.
At least the new shield logo is always fine, right? Wrong. There's an incorrect version floating around the Internet, and I'm not sure casual fans realize the difference.
Where did the incorrect Shield Logo come from?
As most of you may recall, Illinois' new Nike apparel leaked online the night before everything was officially unveiled to the public. One image in particular (the White basketball uniform) offered a reasonably clear look at what would later become the 'Victory Shield' logo. Fans got excited! One message board poster even took it upon himself to create an enhanced mockup of the school's new secondary mark from the leaked images. I've spent way too long looking for that exact post to no avail, but the original thread can be found right here.
The fan-made mockup I just mentioned? Yeah, guess what that eventually became.
It was actually a pretty good guess at the final version, to be completely honest.
The incorrect image was immediately shared on social media, and that led to it being picked up by a few online news outlets that reported it as the official copy. All of that immediate exposure unfortunately led to the following, which still takes place when you do a Google search for 'Illinois Shield Logo'.
And that's why your uncle's Twitter avatar has always looked a bit strange. He's been using the wrong logo this entire time.
How can Illinois fix this branding issue?
I'm not sure if there's anything that can be done in the short-term to immediately rectify the problem. Illinois would've attempted it already. Google's image search algorithm probably prioritizes some factors that are outside of anyone's control.
But there may be something that Lovie Smith and his assistants can do on the football side. How about a quick message to every player who receives a scholarship offer? The NCAA just approved unlimited texting, you know. Here's a template that they can use, free of charge.
Congratulations again on your scholarship offer! We think you'd be an incredible addition to our program. If you plan to share the news on your social media account(s), please use the attached Illinois logos. Google searches often turn up incorrect brand marks, and we're trying to avoid those going forward. Make sure to check out that cool post on TCR for more information.
Go Fighting Illini!
Head Football Coach, University of Illinois
How can YOU fix the problem?
I don't know. I guess just stop tweeting out the wrong images.