The ‘Sailor Hat Cougar’ has made a comeback of late, a team logo brought back by BYU Athletics as part of the branding campaign that emphasizes tradition in Cougar sports.
Both the primary logo (the oval stretch Y) and the secondary mark (the Sailor Hat Cougar) are retro logos that have been modernized and now stand to brand BYU as different from any other university and tell the university’s story
BYU associate athletic director Duff Tittle said the hope of BYU Athletics in having two retro logos back with a modern touch was to have people look at them and have the logos convey “tradition, history and success,” and to have fans reminisce about “the good moments in the history of the program.”
BYU creative design director for athletics Dave Broberg said the stretch Y in the oval is great because of its simplicity. It’s strong and unified.
“A simple mark is always a strong mark,” Broberg said. “It can be easily used and put on basically anything because it is so simple. It’s just the one letter, the Y, which is kind of our symbol because of the Y on the mountain.”
Tittle said athletics wanted to be identified by one primary logo, but that most schools have a secondary mark that represents their mascot. The Sailor Hat Cougar resurfaced about that same time athletics started looking for a secondary mark. Fans liked the mark and BYU decided to clean up the old version of the logo and reinstall it as an official mark in athletics.
“(The Sailor Hat Cougar logo) looked retro and cool, but it needed a fresh update,” said BYU creative design director for athletics Dave Broberg. “We hired an outside company to give it a push and a little makeover, and I think we kept the integrity of the image, but gave it a fresh look at the same time. It has been a hit.”
The new secondary mark brings in the element of the mascot and of BYU’s competitive nature.
“The secondary mark, with the sailor hat or vintage cougar, it just looks tough. Like we’re not going to take any crap from anybody,” Broberg said. “From an athletic standpoint, (it says that) we’re here to win and we want to win and we’re not going to back down from anyone, no matter what school or who they are.”
BYU hasn’t always had a branding effort or one that has been so widely accepted as the current one. Until about 10 to 15 years ago, BYU didn’t really brand athletics, so there wasn’t a lot of cohesion, according to Broberg.
BYU licensing and trademark manager Adam Parker labels the LaVell Edwards Stadium crowds during the late 1990s and early 2000s as “skittles” because people were wearing any and every color. Having the right colors in branding efforts is an essential part in winning the hearts of fans.
An example of this is the logos from that same time period when BYU hired an outside company to try and rebrand the university. The company added the color tan into the logos and the result wasn’t quite what BYU wanted or expected.
“Blue is our color and always has been: blue and white,” Broberg said. “When they added this additional color, it just really didn’t fit. It didn’t fit well with the tradition, it didn’t fit with who we were, and I think a lot of fans, coaches and players kind of revolted and really didn’t like the stuff with the tan on it.”
An initiative to change the logos and colors came as a result to the pushback from the fans, coaches and players. Changing the logos isn’t an easy task, however. Parker said in an email that the administration and the President’s Council need to give the OK to any logo change.
One of the first things that Bronco Mendenhall did when becoming head coach in 2005 was talk to the administration about changing the logos. Broberg said Mendenhall asked to get rid of tan on the uniforms and to return to the stretch Y logo. Mendenhall also said changing the logo was a necessary step in becoming a successful program, according to Broberg. BYU reintroduced the blue and white jerseys and the stretch Y at the start of the football season as a result of these efforts.
The change was well received among fans and players and encouraged the branding department to unify all the sports at BYU under the same branding umbrella. This would ensure quality branding for all the sports as well as promoting and strengthening the BYU brand across the country.
“Athletics is unique in that it’s probably the most recognizable and visible part of this university outside of (the Provo) area, and maybe outside the church as well. That’s why it’s so important for us to represent ourselves well,” Broberg said.
These branding efforts of attempting to increase brand recognition and fan acceptance have paid off. Tittle mentioned that BYU’s stretch Y logo was ranked No. 4 in the Athlon sports 2013 best college football logo rankings.
Here’s a look at BYU’s logos in every decade back to the 1900s.