Why Colleges Are Recruiting Student Athletes with Personalized Logos
USC designed logos for its entire men’s basketball roster, while Texas and Oklahoma produced them for its incoming 2020 football players
As college sports have become increasingly big businesses in the United States, with many coaches’ salaries measured in millions of dollars and television contracts reaching the billions, the NCAA and its member institutions, the universities that field the teams, have had difficulty in continuing to maintain the façade of amateurism that prevents college athletes from being paid for their efforts. Last week, the NCAA acquiesced to public pressure a bit, changing its rules to allow athletes to start making money from their “names, images, and likenesses” (NIL) in ways that were prohibited before, such as endorsing products or selling t-shirts emblazoned with their faces.
Of all the consequences of these changes, one that’s remarkable from a branding perspective is the sudden appearance of personal logos for dozens of college athletes, who have taken to social media to show off their new symbols. Ironically, this outpouring of graphic embellishments adheres in a way to the NCAA’s vision for college sports; that is to say, a number of these logos look amateurish. Too often, for example, they have an excessive number of graphic elements crammed in, or proportions that are out of whack.
For the most part, though, the designers of these marks have taken their cue from the world of professional sports, where norms for personal logos are well-established. The use of initials, sometimes combined with athletes’ uniform numbers, is extremely common, as seen in the symbols employed by Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Of course, there is a long history of using initials to represent people — the monogram is one of the oldest graphic identity devices — but analysis of U.S. trademark data shows that initials appear in sports logos 13% more often than in other marks. These sports initials, both in…