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Diving deep into the Syracuse Orange’s Nike #BRAND

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Let’s talk about what the Orange wear, which means what you and I wear.

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NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

I’m a big uniform guy. I religiously read Uni Watch, own a way-too-big jersey collection, and have on more than one occasion written about uniforms and other odd topics on this site.

So when Kevin posted this idea in the NunesSlack, it started a conversation that led me down a rabbit hole: What exactly is the Syracuse Orange’s #BRAND/apparel deal with Nike? What can we expect to see athletes wearing? What can we, as fans, expect to buy? I decided to use the publicly available knowledge and my insights from my time as a student-athlete to dig deeper into this.

Overall Branding/Licensing

Like any college, Syracuse University has a carefully crafted brand that splits into two sections: Academic and Athletics. At brand.syracuse.edu, you can see all of the different aspects of said brand. This includes fonts, logos, colors, etc.

For athletics, the side that fans most interact with, the University licenses out the marks and word marks to vendors to use for specific products and promotions. The full list of athletics marks (as of 2/9/17) can be found here. The University also keeps a list of every vendor with a license and exactly what they’re allowed to use that license for. The list is very comprehensive, but basically, Nike has a license for every product under the sun.

Speaking of the Nike side, there’s just one point I want to make before this goes on too long: basically, they tier their sports in basketball and football. In basketball, it’s ELITE schools and everyone else. In football, there’s no official name, but it’s Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oregon, Tennessee, Florida, LSU, USC and everyone else, usually. If a team gets really good, they can get thrown into that mix. (See Baylor’s sudden Nike prominence before... well you know.)

NCAA Football: Louisville at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Football Specific

We’ve covered this pretty thoroughly over the years, but in case you’re new, here are the spark notes: In 2014, Syracuse Football got a Nike rebrand in line with what they were doing with other Nike non-premier schools. No, they only sell navy versions of the jerseys and yes, we’ve asked a bunch for orange ones.

Aside from that, there’s not a whole lot changing. Sometimes, we get weird helmets or helmet decals to mix things up, but otherwise, not much has changed since Syracuse got orange added to the mix in 2015. No Power Five Nike schools “above” Syracuse have undergone a full rebrand recently, so it’s safe to say, whether we like it or not, these uniforms are here to stay. (We’ll get to the font in Lacrosse.)

Basketball Specific

Syracuse is one of the handful of programs deemed a Nike ELITE school. This means that we get all of the fancy Nike Basketball gear as it hits market and new jerseys with small tweaks are a regular occurrence. and this also means that there are two cycles of fan gear: One at the beginning of the season with warmups the team wears and an alternate line of warmups that the team is given (but usually doesn’t wear for games) around late February/March.

You can see some of that line currently in the Nike store right now. It also means that Syracuse is always first in line for cool Nike promotions like the Hyper Elite Dominance, aka Script 1.0.

If you watched the ESPN 30 for 30 Requiem for the Big East, or heard Jim Boeheim talk about the “old days,” he’s very proud of starting the relationship between Syracuse and Nike. It’s one of the biggest reasons Syracuse is an ELITE school and is why as long as Jim Boeheim is at the helm of the program, Syracuse will be a Nike school.

Lacrosse Specific

Lacrosse runs a little bit more independently than the other two “revenue” men’s sports. Nike Lacrosse and other equipment manufacturers will give Syracuse the best stuff because it’s Syracuse, like the anniversary helmets they wore. But now and then, they’ll get a fancy uniform reveal like so:

And about that font: it’s the same as football. That’s because, based on what’s happened with other schools/Nike’s NFL/soccer deals is that Nike creates and trademarks a font for an entire school. That font is then used by all programs, should they not want a standard Nike font. There used to be a site that tracked all of them, but it’s been since shut down.

All Other Sports

For the rest of Syracuse’s athletics teams, they have access to the Nike gear for that specific sport. This includes generic polos, warmups, t-shirts, bags etc that are usually available in the bookstore/Manny’s/Shirtworld. If you’ve ever been to the Yard Sale at Manley, you find this stuff all over with the team’s sport embroidered into the gear.

HOWEVER, sometimes, things like this can happen:

Basically, for special occasions (bowl games, national championships, conference championships), teams can usually order an extra set of gear for their athletes as a reward. This is all basic Nike gear with Syracuse touches added on. In the track team’s case, Syracuse can sometimes get Jordan Brand gear as a non-Jordan school thanks to the longstanding deal with Nike and having a famous alumnus as a Jordan Athlete.

Script: The Elephant in the Room

By now I’ve made you sit through 800-plus words about #BRAND when most of you probably had one question: WHAT ABOUT THE SCRIPT? We’ve covered it on the site before, but script is making a comeback within Syracuse Nike Gear. And after all of the above, all I can say is I don’t know.

As you can see, the linked brand guidelines don’t have any mention of a script Syracuse as an official word mark. But teams have clearly been able to get script uniforms and warmups from equipment managers through Nike. I reached out to the University for comment and have not heard back, but my best guess is one of the following:

  • Nike owns the trademark for the script and not Syracuse. Therefore, Nike can put it on whatever it wants to, but Syracuse won’t full on adopt until that trademark is University property.
  • Syracuse does own the trademark, but does not want it in wide circulation because it is not in line with their “modern” brand. Therefore, Nike’s previous relationship with the University/relationship with equipment managers guarantee that the wordmark only appears sparingly.

Conclusion

Overall, I hope this was somewhat helpful. Syracuse and Nike have what I would call a successful relationship. The University gets to associate with one of the most recognizable companies in the world for teens and young adults. While there are certainly areas we’d love to see a little more from Nike/Syracuse, things like the slow inclusion of script and Orange football jerseys in 2015 show that someone is listening to fans and acting on it.