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OSU football fashion show more than about just looking good

PROJECT RUNWAY — Oklahoma State players say the new uniforms make them feel good, which makes them play good. But the marketing and advertising implications are much more important to administrators.
BY GINA MIZELL, Staff Writer, Published: October 1, 2011

photo - OSU's Project Runway. Photos provided; Illustration by Phillip Baeza, The Oklahoman
OSU's Project Runway. Photos provided; Illustration by Phillip Baeza, The Oklahoman

Oklahoma State defensive tackle Anthony Rogers has a simple motto when it comes to the Cowboys' new uniforms.

“If you look good, you feel good. And if you feel good, you play good,” Rogers said.

And if by chance the uniform does not look good, fear not. It will change. Every game.

The Cowboys could go almost four seasons without ever repeating a uniform combination.

The players are the ones that ultimately get to flash OSU's new looks — which feature jerseys and pants in orange, white, black and gray and helmets in white, black and gray—but the strategy to feature a slew of uniform combinations goes beyond the product on the field.

It's about marketing. It's about recruiting. It's about branding.

And making change and surprise a major part of that strategy has officially caught on across college football.

“You say you're going to be bold, you're going to be passionate, you're going to be visionary — staying still is not an option,” Arizona State associate athletic director for revenue generation Steve Hank said.

Oregon has been the king of the wide variety of eye-popping looks — some call them brilliant, others call them terrible — for the better part of 15 years.

But this season, OSU has worn black, gray and white. Maryland wore its state flag on its helmet and cleats. Arizona State sported an all-black look and has worn four different helmets. Even Wyoming now has 27 different uniform choices.

There are plenty of reasons for the trend.

It's a way to appeal to student-athletes — both current ones and potential ones.

Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said he approached Nike about adding uniform elements to use as a recruiting tool.

“If you go to a high school now, you're going to see kids with brand new tennis shoes on,” Christensen said. “It's a big deal to have trademarked tennis shoes, clothes, that kind of stuff. I think it's just another avenue to get in front of recruits and get them excited about what we're doing.”

And he's not the only one that thinks uniforms plays a role in the recruiting process.

“Back in high school, I used to like OSU because of the uniforms,” Rogers said. “It's something about that orange and the black. I think the uniforms play a big impact on recruiting for younger high school athletes.”

But schools also look at football uniforms as a platform to market the university's overall vision. Some are selling tradition; others are selling innovation and creativity.

Put OSU and other schools that have debuted new uniforms this season in the second category.

“The whole uniform selection sort of supported that,” OSU director of marketing Kyle Wray said. “It was ‘Hey, let's do something new. Let's do something exciting.' Change is a good thing.”

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