By Kenneth Cline and Ryan Hannegan
With the success of the 2013 football season, as well as the flashy uniforms, Baylor has grabbed national attention.
Although Baylor’s customary colors are green and gold, fans are starting to become accustomed to bolder and more intimidating colors, such as black or chrome.
For good or bad, the splashy new uniforms have caused quite a stir.
Evidence of this can be dated back to Nov. 7, when the Baylor football team played the Oklahoma Sooners in what was hyped up as a “Blackout.”
The week prior to the game, all fans were asked to buy and wear black Baylor T-shirts as part of a campaign by the university.
The Bears cruised to a 41-12 victory over the Sooners.
Chad Klempnauer, marketing director for Baylor athletics, said he believes the uniforms are a blessing from Nike.
The sports company recognizes Baylor to be one of its up-and-coming schools, which allows it to try new things for Baylor.
“I think it is a cool thing for us because it causes a lot of buzz and excitement with fans and players,” Klempnauer said. “I think it’s kind of a close relationship between our success and the new uniforms.”
Not only do the uniforms have visual appeal, but they also create a buzz among prospective student-athletes.
“I think we’re in a unique situation,” Klempnauer said. “All those teams have a history of winning and that is why it works for them. For someone like us, who is up-and-coming, it shows we are the new kid on the block and I think it works for us.”
Joe Gonzales, associate director of marketing for digital and graphic design at Baylor, said he thinks the uniforms help the football team attract talent.
“It helps with recruiting,” Gonzales said. “You would be surprised what a shiny helmet and a nice, clean uniform can do for recruits.”
Gonzales said that everyone has their own twist on their jersey.
“Everyone had one special uniform,” Gonzales said. “Whether the program is with Nike, Under Armour, or Adidas, they are all doing something.”
Gonzales pointed out that even Alabama had small variations to its uniform in the BCS National Championship game against Notre Dame in January 2013.
Despite those who support the uniform change, there are still those out there who prefer the classic Baylor uniforms.
Baylor journalism, public relations and new media senior lecturer Maxey Parrish has a different perspective on Baylor’s splashy new uniform look.
“I look at it from a marketing perspective,” Parrish said. “Do you break from your branded identity in marketing? You will never see McDonald’s with a black arch. You can be a mile away from a McDonald’s, and when you look down and there is a golden arch, you know it’s McDonald’s. But if it was black, you wouldn’t know what it was.”
The first lesson of marketing is not to deviate from the brand. Parrish said he views this uniform change as breaking that first rule.
Parrish said he does not view this as an attraction to new recruits.
He points out that most successful programs have traditional uniforms but still recruit as well or better than Baylor.
“I think Alabama recruits pretty well, and they wear a ‘70s style uniform. Oklahoma, Ohio State, USC, Nebraska, Penn State. Just go down the BCS top 25 and 20 of them are wearing very traditional uniforms,” Parrish said.
He said it certainly would alter fan perception. He noted that while attending a tailgate for the Oklahoma “Blackout” game, he overheard fans saying how the uniforms were just not Baylor.
“Tech wears black,” Parrish said. “Oklahoma State wears black. We don’t wear black.”
Despite the individual opinions of Gonzales, Klempnauer and Parrish, they all agreed the players really enjoy how the uniforms are unique and help them feel better about their performance headed into a game. As trite as that may seem, uniforms can genuinely help a student-athlete’s psyche before a game.
“I really enjoy wearing the black uniforms because they’re different,” junior linebacker Bryce Hager said. “They give us the extra motivation to play well.”
Ultimately, no matter what anyone thinks, the financial deal between Baylor and Nike determines what uniforms will be utilized throughout the season.
Baylor fans should be expecting even more changes since Nike recently upgraded the university to a “Tier 1” status. This means that the school will receive all of the newest Nike uniform innovations and styles along with schools such as Oregon.