UNC Unveils Streamlined Brand Identity

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The University of North Carolina athletics department announced a refresh of its colors and marks on Monday that will deliver a uniform look across all of its 28 varsity sports.

The streamlined look, which includes colors, logos, lettering and numerals, is the result of an 18-month partnership with Nike that included the input of student-athletes, coaches, administrators and alumni.

“The main goal was to build on our tradition,” UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham said, “and then come up with something that is exciting for recruits and our current student-athletes, and then gain some consistency across all of our sports and across the University.”

UNC’s primary colors of Carolina blue and white, which have long endured wide variations in shade, will now be consistent as the main color palette options. The secondary color options are navy blue, pitch black, silver and flat grey.

“Color is one of the most powerful communicators of your brand,” Todd Van Horne, Nike’s V.P. and Creative Director for Football/Baseball, said. “I think with such a signature color like Carolina blue, you need to be consistent with that over time and that’s one of the hardest things to do as you have multiple sports and multiple materials and multiple partners and everybody trying to execute that same color.”

Black will continue to be a part of UNC’s alternate uniforms. Van Horne indicated that the UNC student-athletes involved in the process expressed their desire for a black uniform option to complement the traditional colors.

“The primary color of all of our teams is Carolina blue and white, but we will use alternative uniforms from time to time,” Cunningham said. “In fact, we use them in virtually every sport that we have, whether it’s pink for cancer awareness or black for a black-out or something like that. We’ll continue to do that, but we won’t do it that frequently. We’re going to maintain the tradition of the Carolina blue and white.”

UNC also introduced an updated primary logo – the interlocking NC – that will be adopted by all of its teams. The logo has been refined to specific measurements to protect its integrity across various applications.

In addition, a list of secondary identities for use by all teams includes the argyle pattern as well as refreshed foot, strutting ram and ram head logos.

While Alexander Julian’s argyle pattern has been used primarily on the men’s basketball uniform since 1991, the design has not been utilized across the 28 sports.

Julian recounted the story of a wrestler approaching him six or seven years ago to request permission to use argyle on his program’s uniforms. The designer told the student-athlete that he had given the design to the University years ago.

“I think the most important thing to me is that the University of North Carolina has a unified approach to the marketing,” Julian said. “We have something that everyone recognizes as Carolina. And as far as I’m concerned – I said this 10 years ago, five years ago and I say it today – I’m thrilled that it’s argyle but I’m even more thrilled that it’s a unified approach now.”

The collaboration started two years ago when Cunningham and other UNC officials visited Coca-Cola in Atlanta for a KO Lab think tank in September 2013. During that two-day brainstorming session, company representatives detailed their efforts over the years to maintain the Coke brand.

The 18-month process started with a blank slate, according to Van Horne, as Nike talked to all involved parties on campus about the importance of the UNC brand. Consistent themes emerged from that dialogue, such as an emphasis of meshing the Carolina tradition with the distinction of Julian’s argyle.

The inclusion of student-athletes into the conversation provided for a fresh take on UNC’s branding.

“Since the school has been around for so many years, the tradition was what they knew,” Devon Carter, a senior hurdler on UNC’s track and field team, said. “Now they are putting in the kind of things that we like and want to see in the future with the new argyle and the simplified color that’s actually going to be ours. I think they’ve definitely allowed our visions for the University to become a part of their vision.”

The brand identity refresh was included in UNC’s contract with Nike and therefore no additional cost was involved.

Nike typically does two or three of these brand overhauls per year, according to Van Horne. Georgia, Cal and Florida State have all undergone similar refreshes in recent years.

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