How do you brand 15 unique public and private universities spanning 10 East Coast states under one umbrella?
That was the challenge faced by Tim Lynde shortly after he took on the role of senior associate commissioner of brand marketing for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 2013.
The ACC – one of the oldest NCAA Division I Conferences – has grown tremendously since its founding in 1953. What began as a conference of seven universities in the southern Atlantic states has expanded its reach to the Northeast and Midwest with the additions of the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse University in 2013, and the University of Louisville in 2014.
Lynde was tasked with creating an overarching marketing message to unite all 15 schools in the Conference. Given the robust nature of the college sport enterprise, developing a solution that would work for each school’s marketing needs and one that would continue the ACC’s unique traditions and branding was a challenging endeavor. Prior to his arrival, the ACC used a number of different logos – ranging from an old-fashioned seal featuring a map of ACC schools to a plain-text logo – to represent its member universities. With the addition of new schools and an overall lack of unity in the visual branding, the ACC needed a consistent, modern and progressive look that could represent all schools across all sports.
Lynde quickly realized that rebranding would involve a large number of stakeholders, each with different objectives. For instance, coaches were focused on attracting top talent in the form of teenage athletes, while athletic departments wanted to increase incremental revenue and sell more tickets. Throughout the process, Lynde continually considered the objectives of the ACC as a whole, as well as each stakeholder’s target audiences – and it was far from easy.
In the end, the Conference decided on a single, italicized, underlined ACC logo unveiled in 2014. It also launched a series of sports-specific posters and banners to help convey the new brand.
But the logo redesign wasn’t the biggest challenge Lynde faced. The real challenge was implementing the new logo on every field, court and track, as well as on the uniforms worn by thousands of NCAA athletes.
Despite the initial costs of the rebrand, having a unified visual identity ultimately saves money on athletics collateral – such as stadium banners – which now provide consistent branding and can be used year after year, says Lynde. And of course, building your brand is always a good investment.