Oregon State and Nike: A long-lasting relationship

The Beavers have teamed up with the sports marketing mogul to help in a rebrand, cementing a partnership that has grown over the years

By Colin Huber
OSU new football uniform
New beaver logo
OSU new football uniform
OSU new football uniform
OSU new football uniform
OSU new football uniform
OSU new football uniform
OSU new football uniform
OSU new football uniform
OSU new basketball uniform
OSU new basketball uniform
OSU new basketball uniform
OSU new soccer uniform
OSU new soccer uniform
OSU new soccer uniform
OSU new track and field uniform
OSU new track and field uniform

When current Director of Equipment Operations Steve McCoy was hired by Oregon State Athletics in 1998, the Beavers weren’t a Nike school. At least not by today’s definition.

“It was a handshake agreement; that was it. It was very minimal,” said McCoy, laughing. “I think we had a shoe program, a buy two, get one free thing. It’s not like that anymore.”

It’s not even close.

That was 15 years ago, before Facebooking and Tweeting and worldwide live-streaming. The world has changed. Children born in 1998 are now high school students, preparing for college. They enjoy different stuff: styles, looks, flash and a thing called “swag”.

The same changes have affected Oregon State. Since McCoy walked through the doors of the university, the brand has evolved, and so has the relationship with Nike.

In 1999, Dennis Erickson replaced Head Football Coach Mike Riley, who left for the NFL. Erickson brought a fresh, modern outlook with him.

“He had an existing relationship with Nike, so he picked up the phone, made some calls and slowly we got more involved,” McCoy said.

The partnership continued to grow during the 2000-2001 football season. That season, the Beavers won the Fiesta Bowl, launching the university into a national spotlight.

“That’s when we established ourselves as a reputable group,” McCoy said. “Then, in 2002, (newly appointed Athletic Director) Bob De Carolis came to me and asked, ‘What’s it going to take to get better?’ We had to keep building that relationship with Nike.”

From there, the tie grew stronger each year, and in 2009, with the help of back-to-back baseball national championships, Oregon State became a “Tier-1” program with Nike. At the time, the Beavers were one of just a handful schools that enjoyed Nike’s exclusive perks including the widest range of products, design, gear, programs and product testing.

This brings us to 2013. This year the university teamed up with the sports marketing giant in an athletic rebranding effort.

A new brand

beaver logoOregon State began its rebranding process just 18 months ago, but the idea has been around much longer.

“This has been a long time coming,” McCoy said.

Finally, the department found reason to change its look — uniforms, lettering, a logo — Benny’s outfit.

“We had to ask ourselves, ‘What does Oregon State University need to advance the athletic brand? What will help us recruit prospective students and student-athletes?” Senior Associate Athletic Director John Rizzardini said. “We needed distinctive. We needed contemporary.”

Rizzardini joined the Beavers shortly after pushing the Seattle Seahawks through their own rebrand with Nike in early 2012. He knew he was jumping into a big task on the fly. Rebranding projects, especially at institutions rich with tradition, have to be done delicately. Oregon State’s process started with homework, involving as many people as possible, Rizzardini said.

“We (Oregon State and Nike officials) had to listen, talk with young people, talk with administration, talk with student-athletes,” he said.

The rebranding process at Oregon State included a broad scope of leaders. In addition to the Athletics Department, the university’s central marketing team, headed by Steve Clark, Vice President for University Relations and Marketing, was included throughout. Coaches weighed in. Student-athletes had a part as well, offering advice about what potential recruits might want to see. All were answering the same question: How should the school be represented?

“Nike came to campus and did interviews with administrators and students-athletes,” said Melody Oldfield, Director of University Marketing. “They wanted to get a feel for what Oregon State was about.”

Recruiting talented student athletes, becoming even more nationally recognized and the desire to connect with fans are all factors that drove Oregon State’s rebrand.

“We wanted to make an intimate relationship between fans and this university,” Rizzardini said.

Together, the university and Nike put together a string of words — or themes — that best represented Oregon State as a whole:

Heritage. Strong. Victorious. United. Innovative. Tenacious. Dedicated. Integrity.

From there, it was time to create.

Nike’s design

female soccer playersAfter a concept was constructed, it was a no-brainer to hand the design reins over to Nike. After all, the relationships were already in place.

“I think we already had a very special relationship, different from a lot of schools,” McCoy said. “Former Beavers work there (a large number of alumni). If I have a problem with equipment, I’m on the phone and they’re there. They have the same dedication and desire we do.”

“They understand athletic performance at the top tier,” Rizzardini said. “They’re right in our backyard (Beaverton, Ore.). They come to games. They visit with coaches. They’re not just a group that flies in every once in a while.”

The team at Nike dedicated months constructing art, focusing on a logo.

“The design team at Nike, it’s amazing to see how bright, detailed and innovative they are,” Rizzardini said, mentioning that part of the planning was to incorporate attributes of a Beaver, the animal, into the brand.

After months of work, Nike came back to Oregon State with a pitch.

The University had a look in mind, and officials weren’t just going to take the first thing they saw. They wanted something that was perfect for the school. It wasn’t about slapping a logo onto a table and saying “That’s it.” Oregon State was part of the process.

“We were given every opportunity to agree or disagree,” McCoy said.

That’s how things went. Nike showed the designs. Oregon State critiqued. Nike went back and adjusted, over and over for 18 months to get it just right.

A signature mark

Benny the BeaverThe process of finding the perfect logo hinged really on one thing: identity. What is Oregon State’s — and only Oregon State’s — identity? That answer came from within.

“We didn’t look at other schools,” McCoy said. “We’re not trying to be like other schools. We’re trying to be like Oregon State. We’re our own personality.”

The new logo might not last forever, but it will be around for awhile — as long as the Oregon State brand remains contemporary, unique and recognizable.

“We want people from all across the nation to see our logo and know, ‘That’s Oregon State,’” McCoy said.

That was the goal from the beginning. For Oregon State and Nike, the target was university-wide representation — something everybody could relate to.

“This represents the whole school. Logos, color combos, everything,” McCoy said. “We don’t want the team to look good. We want the university to look good. We want our students to represent it and walk proud.”

“It’s a big change. It’s what we were missing here.”

Yes, a big change indeed. A long way from the days of 2-for-1 Nike shoes.

23 Responses to “Oregon State and Nike: A long-lasting relationship”

  1. Dissapointed alumni says:

    I am a Oregon State Grad, and a long time supporter of the program. I must say that I really like the new uniforms that they came up with. However, the new logo is so stupid!!! It is almost embarrassing to be honest. You will not see me or my family wearing the new logo on any clothing at games or around town. Was really looking forward to something exciting and was very disappointing!!!

  2. Isaac says:

    I don’t like the new logo because it makes Oregon State look like they are beasts. If Nike could make new jerseys for the logo with the beaver with the word beaver.

  3. Rebecca Fisher says:

    That new beaver logo is the worst thing I have every seen. Guess I won’t be buying Beaver gear any more.

  4. Lonni Sexton says:

    I see Nike is changing the OSU mascot to “Nelly the Nutria” Nike changed UO’s colors to black and yellow, and had our band marching in Nazi helmets for a while. The motto of corporatism is: he who pays gets to pick the colors and the mascot. Sorry to all you fighting Nutrias out there.

  5. Beaver Alumni says:

    Let the conspiracy theory begin with this new Logo. You have “Uncle Knight” who is the biggest Duck fan out there and is also the owner/CEO of Nike which is in charge of re-branding The Beavers a rival. At first glance the logo looks cool and modern. But when taken aback, the thing I notice is that the beaver head is in shape of a Bird’s wing (Duck’s perhaps?). Then upon further look you can find a duck’s Head right in the heart of the design. It’s a stretch, but if you look by the eye and reverse your view of the colors going orange to back and looking right to left (towards the back of the Logo). The top line is the top beak and the next below it is the bottom beak. The eye are shared for both. I’m still up in the air with the new Logo but the colors and style of the uniforms are great. Decide for yourself.

  6. Current Student says:

    GO OSU hamsters?

  7. Chaz says:

    It is frustrating to see how many fans are complaining about the rebranding efforts from Nike and the university. You need to understand the bigger picture and that its not just about a new logo. The purpose of rebranding the athletic departments is to 1) distinguish Oregon State from the other “OSU” schools 2) Bring a contemporary look and feel to a program that was well outdated 3) help with the recruiting efforts. The combination of these results will give Oregon State the opportunity to go from a school with a solid athletic department to a nationally recognized program with multiple elite sport teams. Whether you like the logo or not you need to understand what it can do for our university and support our school and new school image.

    Riley for prez
    Go Beavs

  8. Beaver Alumni is an idiot

  9. R Godoy says:

    I like the new uniforms but I think the new logo itself needs some reconstruction.
    Oregon state University is a “Historic District”known for it’s beautiful red brick buildings
    and it’s old school colonial look. Therefore, our new modern logo, doesn’t match our outdated school. It’s kind of sad to see Nike buy out our originality, now OSU and U of O rocks Nike.
    But, with due time Im sure we will all get used to it.

    -GINA

  10. Sean Myers says:

    There is a Duck wing on our logo!

  11. Beaver in Seattle says:

    I like the return of “OSU” for the name of the school as opposed to “OS”.
    I like the demise of the “sewer cover” logo.
    I like the look of the new uniforms (except for the giant “swoosh” emblems).
    I don’t like the mascot logo (though some of your nicknames are great! “Nelly the Nutria”, indeed!).
    I think the mascot logo looks like a projectile of some kind – maybe “Benny the Bullet”, or “Ballistic Beaver”.

  12. Chris Ratliff says:

    I entered my correc address the last time when you x-ed me! your kinda like obama– you dont listen! how do you expect people to support the BEAVERS when all you do is give to the DUCKS!!!!!

  13. Deborah says:

    The overall shape of the new logo is that of a duck wing. What was wrong with the last logo? He looked fierce. This one looks like a corporate symbol.

  14. Lauren says:

    People are so upset that the mascot looks like a rodent. I hate to break it to you guys… but beavers are rodents, and we finally have a logo that actually looks like a beaver. At least it’s not another stupid cartoon animal mascot like UO has.

  15. Greg Riutzel says:

    With the others I concur; I like the uniforms.
    Benny however, ditch the buck toothed bike helmet.
    Let’s not let Benny be remembered as “Nellie Nutria”

  16. Beaver Mike says:

    I agree with Beaver Alumni!
    There is definitely a DUCK in the new Beaver Logo.
    The spot on the eye of the Beaver is the eye of the duck
    This cannot be allowed to continue.
    How humiliating.
    If I wore this logo to the Civil War I would feel like I was secretly supporting UO.
    I’m proud to be a Beaver, not a duck.

  17. James says:

    If you people haven’t noticed, nutria and beavers look very similar. There is no arguing it. So saying the logo looks like a nutria is synonymous with it looking like a beaver. They are also closely related phylogenetically (beavers are Castoridae rodents and nutria are Myocastoridae).

    I jog around a big pond which has both beavers and nutria, and I sometimes have to do double-takes to figure out which one I’m looking at. Stop crying.

  18. jas says:

    the logo looks like a hamster or a mutant rat…

  19. Timothy says:

    SCO ducks! OSU is an awesome school academically and with great science programs. But boasting about it’s “relationship” with Nike is almost a joke. The Ducks, now they have a real relationship with Nike.

  20. Steve says:

    my wife thinks the new logo looks like a suppository, and while we have a great pharmacy program at OSU, I think there are better ways to promote it.

  21. Terrance says:

    I’m a transferring student to OSU and that new logo looks like a naked mole rat than a beaver. Please bring the old logo back the uniforms look great but god what was nike or whoever came up with that logo thinking.

  22. Bummed Benny says:

    Remember when Benny had a top hat and a smile that led one to believe he was having the time of his life? I do, and that is what college represents to me. New uniforms are great but they are not going to make our athletic department any better than the old uniforms. Hopefully future OSU students are not easily swayed to pick a school based on the Athletic branding, but instead decide to attend OSU because scholastically it is a far superior school. Nike makes some nice shoes, but are those new kicks going to get you a job in the future or is your education. They have been know to donate large sums of money toward athletics but lets see what Nike donates toward education before we get too excited. Bring back the old Benny.

  23. Anthony says:

    this new OSU logo is hella sick and i like the new look, dope as hell