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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, gmizell@opubco.com Published: October 1, 2011
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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

The simple strategy of selling change appeals to the common football fan, marketing guru and author Seth Godin said. He compares it to when DC Comics makes an alteration to a character and collectible sales skyrocket.

“With something that we need, we don't want it to change at all,” Godin said. “But when it comes to want, all we want in our life is novelty. Novelty is what they're selling.”

And with that change comes increased exposure and an additional topic of conversation.

Last week, ESPN's College Football Final devoted a whole segment to debating the uniform craze, and OSU was highlighted. Maryland's “State Pride” uniforms became a news story. Arizona State was trending nationwide on Twitter when it wore all black against Missouri. Fans on message boards and at tailgate parties can weigh in on what they think their favorite team will wear for the next game.

“When you see it come up on ESPN and they talk about it there, it would cost us millions of dollars in advertising to pay for that,” Wray said. “But it's all free, and it's all because of the change in uniforms.”

Of course, the chance to make money is also involved.

OSU's new contract with Nike, which was amended to reflect the new uniforms, gives the university $1.7 million in athletic apparel over the next two years. And for every Nike replica uniform sold at retail outlets, about $3.50 comes back to the school.

With four jersey options, there is a greater opportunity to sell more.

Godin sees that as the sole driving force behind the uniform trend.

“Things have gone beyond pretending that it's not all about money,” he said.

Whether using a multitude of uniform combinations as a way to sell a brand continues to spread to more college football programs remains to be seen.

But the philosophy has worked for Oregon. The school has more national notoriety than ever, executive senior associate athletic director for development Jim Bartko said, an all-time high in enrollment and a football team that played for the national championship a year ago.

“You look back, and in 15 years, it's kind of amazing what's happened,” Bartko said.

And Wray is happy with the way OSU's new looks have brought an extra bit of attention to the Cowboys in what has so far been a special season.

“Obviously, there's a lot of buzz about it,” Wray said. “That's a really, really good thing. The team looks good and they feel good. We're glad to be able to provide our team with that.”


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