Sweet smell of a new visual identity for Ithaca College

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By MIA O'BRIEN
College Contributor Network

"It's bold"

"It's sharp"

"It's fresh"

(I promise, it is not a deodorant commercial).

No, that's the sweet smell of newly-minted jerseys and freshly laid paint on the fields and courts of the Ithaca College Athletic facilities. The college's athletic department launched a new branding campaign last October in an attempt to unify the college's 25 intercollegiate varsity programs. On Aug. 20, they delivered, as a new, department-wide logo was revealed along with new jerseys for teams and a new website for the department.

Not so coincidentally, alumna Susan Bassett '79 returned to head the department last fall and immediately began working on this initiative.

"When I returned to my alma mater, one of my primary tasks was to determine how the athletics program could be better aligned with the overall mission, vision and strategic direction of the college," Bassett said.

"The logo system that was in use for the past two decades had some limitations and did not complement the college's current visual identity, which was launched in 2011. We knew it was time to update our athletics' visual identity while keeping intact our Bombers nickname."

So far, so good in terms of the reception by students and alumni to the new logo, which one Ithacan columnist described as "the simplest choice possible that would irritate the fewest number of people."

But according to several coaches and current players who took part in the launch, perhaps simpler was better in unifying a program that has seen several logos, a failed mascot search, and backlash for its mascot-the "Bombers"-throughout its 123 years.

"[The logo] comes across that way so we're all saying the same thing when you see it," notes 35-year baseball coach George Valesente.

Ithaca College is not the first school to launch such a re-branding effort. The University of Georgia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Johns Hopkins and Michigan State are among the notable others that have launched a new visual identity in the last five years -- with the Spartans featuring almost five different "new-looks" in the last decade. While some -- including the bigger universities like Georgia and MSU -- did so alongside signing a new partnership with an athletic brand, many did so with the same goal as the Bombers: to be "strong," "consistent," and "united."

Johns Hopkins, like Ithaca College, underwent a school-wide re-branding prior to the athletic departments' respective initiatives.

Says Tom Calder, Director of Athletics and Recreation for Johns Hopkins, "We have enjoyed unparalleled success in recent years and these marks will strengthen our brand and enhance our efforts in many areas, including recruiting and marketing."

So why does any of this matter -- especially to the average fan or even active one?

For the optimists in the room, unity is something to be excited about -- especially at institutions like Ithaca College, where, according to the U.S. Department of Education, 10 percent of the total operating expenses budget is spent on one team. Readers can take a guess as to which team that might be (hint: almost every school in the country's largest athletic budget goes towards this sport).

If only on the surface-and in other actions Bassett has taken since she took over last fall-it appears the athletic department is not solely concerned with one or two teams: everyone is included in the Bomber tradition.

To the super skeptics, it may be viewed as a simplistic approach to the eventual absence of the word "Bomber" in the school's identity (although the promotional video complementary to the logo launch insists the "Bomber motto" will be untouched). Yet, the URL for the athletic department's website has switched from "www.bombers.ithaca.edu" to "www.athletics.ithaca.edu."

To some (as perhaps the most logical answer aside from the "unity" mission), it is to keep in line with the "IC 20/20" vision and logo planned by President Tom Rochon in 2010-and keeping in line with his vision of putting Ithaca College on the map as a hub for academia and financial growth. Simultaneous, of course, from both the academic and athletic perspective, is the goal of competing with the other schools across the country that are going through similar re-branding from the Hopkins to the Michigan States.

But to most, this re-branding is just like a deodorant commercial: bold, fresh, and something we'll all buy into before it just becomes a force of habit and a part of our daily lives.


Mia O'Brien is a senior at Ithaca College's Roy H. Park School of Communications, where basically everyone calls her "Mobrien." She's a fan of country music, a good debate, and French dressing -- in no particular order. For sports updates, random musings, and many a creative hashtag, follow her on Twitter: @OBSportsLive16
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