Baylor reveals new brand identity

Story by Matt Muir | Staff Writer, Video by Julia Lawrenz | Broadcast Reporter

Baylor unveiled a new brand identity as part of its Baylor United rebranding effort on Monday. The full reveal comes after a partial reveal which took place on Saturday before the spring football game. Baylor partnered with Nike to showcase new athletic uniforms and a new bear logo.

The new branding, described as a “one-brand” approach, unites Baylor under a redesigned interlocking BU logo, which will be used universally across all Baylor institutions. The new logo replaces the decade-old mark featuring Pat Neff Hall and Judge Baylor. In addition to the new Interlocking BU, the text in the university brand mark has been changed to include upper and lowercase characters, and Baylor’s green and gold colors have been standardized. According to the Baylor United brand guide, the old Pat Neff logo will now be known as the commemorative mark. This will be reserved for special commemorative events and “permanent installations,” but will otherwise be phased out by the end of the year.

An email sent by President Dr. Linda Livingstone explained that the branding change makes Baylor more recognizable.

“As I traveled outside of Waco, I quickly learned that our existing institutional logo – with Pat Neff Hall, Judge Baylor and our 1845 founding date – did not have significant brand recognition outside of the Baylor family. In fact, our mark was indistinguishable among many other colleges and universities that also used historic buildings or landmarks with establishment dates as their logos.” Livingstone said. “Only one university, however, owns the distinct interlocking BU – That’s Baylor University.”

In a press release announcing the change, Livingstone said the “one-brand” approach will also help Baylor stand out in the competitive space of higher education.

“As the marketplace becomes more and more competitive for outstanding students, faculty, staff and external resources, we recognize the need to stand out quickly and distinctly,” Livingstone said. “Just as we’ve aligned our academic and operational strategies under one strategic plan, we need all of our brand and marketing assets working together to assist in our goal of being recognized as the preeminent Christian research university.”

Jason Cook, Baylor’s vice president for marketing and communications and chief marketing officer, spearheaded the rebranding effort. Cook explained the timeline of the rebranding process, and said that the opportunity presented itself while working with Nike to design uniforms for all of Baylor’s athletic teams, with a little inspiration from President Livingstone.

“Working with Dr. Livingstone I noticed that she always wore her interlocking BU on her lapel pin, and that was a signal to me that there’s a possibility of a brand shift for the institution,” Cook said. “We started the Nike process and as that started moving forward looking at, yes, we are going to retain the interlocking BU, it is important to the institution, we continued to have conversations over about 18 months [about] how we can best grow our brand from a national standpoint.”

Cook said that many people are introduced to Baylor through the athletic program and the interlocking BU logo. He said maintaining a consistent identity will help Baylor grow its influence.

“This phrase that we say, ‘Baylor United,’ there’s very many layers to that. Obviously our athletic department is becoming united [with the new Nike partnership,] but also we’re becoming united across our campus to use consistent marks and colors, but then athletics and the university, we are united,”

“We feel that we can truly move the needle for Baylor nationally if we all present ourselves in the same look and feel, [and] also the same messaging and the same experience with Baylor as we move forward,” Cook said.

Cook previously introduced a “one-brand” strategy during his time at Texas A&M University, which he said helps a university “stand out in a sea of sameness.”

According to Cook, much thought and research went into choosing and designing the new logo. Cook said recognizability, tradition and the Baylor community’s emotional attachment to the interlocking BU all played a part in the process.

“When you’re balancing old and new obviously you want to look at the history of the institution, you want to look at which marks have the most visibility, which marks are cherished,” Cook said. “That iconic interlocking BU dates back over 100 years on our campus… That mark started having a lot of widespread use in athletics in the 1950s… That is a historic and iconic and cherished symbol here at Baylor.”

Cook also described the current bear as “not very beloved.” He said the new brand identity presented an opportunity to introduce a new bear; a design which better represents Baylor.

“We have a long string of bears at Baylor that truly have not become very loved outside of Sailor Bear, of course,” Cook said. “The new bear is quite fierce, he represents the passion that we have at Baylor, but [he’s not] a scary bear either.”

The new branding is immediately visible on the Baylor website and all new materials are expected to sport the new look by the start of the fall semester. Existing materials can still be used until the end of the year as a cost-saving measure. Cook said the timing of the reveal takes the stress off faculty and staff.

“We did not want to just spring this on people at the start of the fall semester because there’s so much going on at that time, so spring is a good time to do it. It’s also a time when we’ve learned that a lot of the colleges and schools buy supplies for the next academic year, so we wanted to make sure that they understood that a brand shift was happening,” Cook said.

According to Cook, announcing the new branding in the spring is also important for retailers, who order their fall merchandise during the spring. The Baylor bookstore will be the first place to receive items with the new logos, but its availability should be widespread by the fall.