Friday, April 23, 2010

MSU unveils new uniforms, Nike-inspired branding

By James Hensley, Special to The Other Side of Spartan Sports

The unveiling of the new Spartan uniforms started in much the same manner that the public first learned about the branding campaign—with a leak on the internet. The Facebook group “The Old Spartan Logo” released a link approximately an hour and half before the beginning of the official press conference. The link was taken down within minutes of being posted, but the commentary on the new age of Spartan jerseys had begun.

By the time the press conference started there were already many different opinions about the jerseys posted on Facebook.

The opening presentation of the press conference had MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis stating that “MSU is a sleeping giant and we’re waking up the sleeping giant” to create a uniform identity for MSU Sports. Mark Vanhorn from Nike said his mission was to “respect the past, represent the future.”

Hopefully, you agree with his vision of MSU’s future.

Hollis commented that a driver of this mission was that at one point there were nine different greens in the uniforms of MSU’s 25 teams.

MSU has now trademarked green, silver, bronze colors, as well as typography, that cannot be used by any other school or organization.

Implementation and Olympic sports

The Athletic Department unveiled the uniforms that will start being used in Fall 2010 with models from the Football, Basketball, Hockey and Volleyball teams. When questioned about the implementation schedule for the teams, he responded that only the five teams shown today will be sporting the new uniforms next year.

MSU and Nike will continue to design and roll out the same template designs to other non-revenue teams as the teams need new uniforms. This will limit the implementation cost of the uniform changes to regular asset purchases already budgeted for by the departments.


The basic rundown on the football jersey is that the jersey has been updated with the new green and the font has been standardized.

The rear pant legs for the uniform now feature a splash of green. Already, the football jerseys have sparked a bit of a backlash on Facebook, with a majority (but not all) comparing the design to a toned-down version of the over-the-top Nike uniforms of the University of Oregon.


Considering that this branding mission was designed to present a unified Spartan Image with national recognition, it is hard to miss the white elephant in the room: The two home and away jerseys do not have similar base designs.

The home jersey features the traditional Spartan head logo, but lacks the traditional hockey lettering of “Spartans” or “Michigan State.” The return of the Spartan head to the home uniform marks an end to a 40-year-old absence from the hockey uniform. The away jersey may be the first in the ice hockey world to include the players number on the front and lacks conformity with its home jersey mate by using the traditional “Michigan State” across the top.

When asked what he thought about the new bronze in the hockey uniforms, goalie Drew Palmisano responded that he really liked the accent color and was looking forward to repainting part of his goalie helmet to match. Torey Krug said he felt that the two different jersey styles for hockey would not detract from the team’s image when playing road games.

Men's and Women's Basketball

The uniforms for the basketball teams drop the last Nike branding attempt of “State” in italics and replace it with “Spartans” in the new font with the new trademark colors. Given that MSU basketball seems to change uniforms every three years, these changes will likely be well received by the Spartan basketball community.

MSU basketball stars Durrell Summers and Kalin Lucas modeled the basketball jerseys, with Lucas sporting a foot brace as he recovers from recent surgery.

How the decisions were made

Both Nike’s Vanhorn and MSU’s Hollis said that community values and focus groups had consisted of MSU administrators, the Athletic Advisory board and student athletes. This effectively means that no alumni and only one non-student athlete was allowed input during the design phase of the project.

This lack of community involvement was one of the causes of the logo scandal that led to over 80,000 Spartan fans to protest changes to the logo.

Since the Athletic Department and Nike kept much of the design process under wraps, the change could provoke some initial resistance about the addition of the bronze color and the changes to some of the jerseys, especially football and hockey.


The department has continued to say this was not a financially motivated project, but the hockey uniforms not having a base design seems to contradict the consistence attempt. Nike’s fingerprints of “over the top” design are hard to miss on all but the Volleyball team’s uniforms.

According to Hollis, the design process has not cost the university any revenues or money, but an interesting fact to consider is that Nike will be the only authorized replica jersey vendor. Since the colors and front are trademarked with MSU and Nike, there will be no cheap replicas for fans looking to save money and show team spirit during these economic hard times.

Something to look forward to is that Mark Hollis commented that sales of old used team jerseys could go on sale to the public as early as this fall, but would not rule out a garage sale before the 2011 Spring Football game, as has been done in the past.


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  2. how much does the type-nerd in me hate the way the Ts connect to the other letters? SO MUCH.
    i am not really opposed to, or offended by, any of the other aspects of the redesigns except the bronze (i just think green looks classier next to silver) and the omission of the spartan helmet (i think it should be on all the fronts instead of numbers). also, why are the two football away jerseys different? is one for a captain or something?

  3. The three football jerseys are actually two homes and one away. We've now got an alternate home jersey, though no one has said yet when we'd use the alternates.

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