The Bear Necessities: Revisioning the Cal brand

Inspiring speeches, matte helmets, the color gray highlight the marquee event

(Cal Bears/Courtesy)
(Cal Bears/Courtesy)

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The wait is over.

Cal Athletics’ new brand — two years in the making — was unveiled in a landmark event at Memorial Stadium Wednesday afternoon.

While the shiny new uniforms received all the hype — and rightfully so — the revamped Cal brand is about far more than just uniforms. As Athletics Director Sandy Barbour put it, “It takes more than a hat to be a cowboy.”

Linebacker Nick Forbes admitted to needing time to appreciate the new Golden Bear, which is rather simple in its scheme. The fierce rendition is a “powerful, intelligent force,” a stark contrast to the cartoonish image of the old and bumbling Oski.

Yet Old Blues needn’t worry. “This will not affect Oski,” Barbour reassured the crowd. The mascot will still remain on the field for games, though sadly he will not receive a Nike makeover.

The makeover itself, which touches nearly every aspect of the Athletics department, was a massive and “secretive” undertaking between Cal and Nike, according to Barbour. Alumni Jason Kidd and Marshawn Lynch were among the select few who got a sneak peak.

With videos from Kidd and Lynch, along with long-winded poetics from Barbour and Nike Global VP and Design Director Todd Van Horne on Wednesday, there was certainly a mythical hype surrounding this event.

“I’m inspired from that speech,” said Van Horne, as he stepped up to the podium after Barbour’s opening remarks. Van Horne followed up with equally inspiring oratory.

But even those paled in the presence of the student-athlete models who finally brought the new uniforms to life.

As the oft-repeated saying goes, “The devil is in the details.” Yet Cal’s brand overhaul is definitely heaven-sent.

Traditional elements of the Cal look — such as the script and school colors — are only amplified by brand-new lettering. The design of the numbers on the jerseys, according to Van Horne, were meant to be “bold like a Bear, sharp like a claw.”

And, boy, are they ever.

The Bear, with his mouth open in a magnificent roar, surely represents a new age in Cal athletics.

The biggest news might have been the color schemes. Blue and gold are, of course, still Cal’s primary colors, but gray is now a secondary color (technically the second secondary color), along with white. There will be no black uniforms — much to athletes’ relief.

Barbour anticipates that the Bears will “perform well in this new visual identity.” With that kind of prediction, Cal faithful should start making reservations for the 2014 Rose Bowl.

The brand, it seems, is truly a new look for a new era of Cal football.

“It was time for a change,” said wide receiver Chris Harper, who is excited about the uniforms and hopes that the players will wear white socks and white shoes (not black shoes).

While the gray option was perhaps the biggest innovation to come out of this collaboration, the matte helmets were equally enticing. The dull navy really allows the shiny Cal script decal to pop when players are on the field. A 3D rendition of the new bear logo will grace the front.

“It has a texture to it that sets it apart,” Forbes said.

The look impressed both athletes such as Forbes and coaches such as Sonny Dykes and Lindsay Gottlieb. Yet Forbes, who also modeled the look in official photo releases, still feels there is something to be desired. He anticipates the next step in Cal’s rebranding is a new on-field mascot.

“I’m hoping this inspires a real bear,” he said.

Annie Gerlach and Jonathan Kuperberg are counting down the days until the next ‘Gold Out.’ Join in the excitement with them at [email protected]

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