Washington State's New Uniforms, Website Represent New Era Of Branding

This week, we've seen the superficial elements of a conscious effort to overhaul the athletic department at Washington State University. Since taking the job, athletic director Bill Moos has taken an "out with the old, in with the new" approach to governing athletics at Washington State, putting his stamp on the entire department with flashy moves and subtle substance. From quiet moves -- changing the philosophy behind fundraising and the principals the athletic department operates under -- to public moves such as the new uniforms, it's been all about building brand recognition for the Cougars.

But why build brand recognition and why do it now? The teams aren't quite up to par and Washington State has become, in many ways, the laughing-stock of the Pac-10. WSU already has the most recognizable logo in college athletics, so why are the big changes necessary?

The athletic department lacked a true identity as teams wore uniforms bearing different colors, lettering, fonts and otherwise. The website for Washington State athletics was a template, no different than any other athletic department website under the CBS College Sports umbrella. So while the logo is known around the country, there was little else distinguishing the Cougars from Houston or East-Western State.

After the jump, we look at the why behind the timing and changes we've seen this week.

If you've listened to any of Moos' speeches, you've heard the words "steak" and "sizzle." The sizzle is the marketing component and the flash, while the steak is the substance and the product on the field. Moos believes both are integral and equal parts of a successful athletic department. The product has to be up-to-par, but also needs to be marketed correctly to maximize success, both financially and competitively.

It's "sizzle week" for Washington State, and it began with a bang in Spokane on Monday as the new uniforms were unveiled. The event built excitement, garnered nation-wide attention and gave WSU its own recognizable brand across all sports and throughout the athletic department -- from business cards to the apparel Cougar athletes don on the field.

Whether the new uniforms were loved or hated, people were talking about Washington State. Reporters were weighing in, both locally and nationally, and fans were reacting. For once, the Cougars were receiving positive, self-generated publicity on a national level. All of a sudden, WSU commanded attention, and people were exposed to the new brand of Cougar athletics.

The changes continued on Wednesday as the website was relaunched with a more appealing look that showcases the new colors. It's meant to work in conjunction with the uniforms while fitting nicely into the new Cougar brand. You can find it at the same address as before or in the screencap below.

Wsuwebsite_medium 

Moos took on the job of directing the Washington State athletic department at the right time. It's a perfect storm, of sorts -- the Pac-10 became the Pac-12, television revenue is expected to increase and the time was right to make a splash. With any leadership change comes top-down organizational changes, and the Cougars are in the midst of those as we speak. The uniforms and website were one part, along with facilities upgrades and a wide-scale funding campaign that stretches university-wide.

Instead of waiting until the product on the field takes significant steps forward, the athletic department is sewing the seeds in the present in hopes of future success. If Moos were to wait to make changes to the Cougar brand, it'd be far too late to capitalize on the success of the program. Instead, Washington State is working to stay one step ahead, generating excitement in hopes of increasing revenue in the immediate to get the athletic department through a dark time while preparing for a future we all hope is filled with success.

The brand has been established, the fresh coat of paint has been applied and Washington State is in the best possible position it can be, all things considered.

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