Under Armour isn’t an underdog shoe and apparel company, not with Stephen Curry endorsing and Notre Dame, UCLA and Maryland on board. But it’s not Nike and not even quite Adidas in the world of brand recognition.
Perhaps that suits Wichita State, which will become an Under Armour school, under terms still in negotiation, on July 1 to start an eight-year contract. Kansas is an Adidas school. Kansas State is Nike. Wichita State didn’t want to feel like its apparel rep squeezed in a visit while in the neighborhood.
Kayla Blanding, WSU director marketing and communications, visited the Under Armour campus in Baltimore earlier this month while in the area for an American Athletic Conference marketing meeting in Annapolis, Md.
“I think that they very fully want to back Wichita State and have us be a pillar team within their Under Armour team,” Blanding said. “It’s a welcome change. Fans always their opinions about ‘Oh, I’m true to Nike, I’m true to Adidas.’ Be open to it, because I think it’s going to surprise you and they’ll be happy with the final product.”
The conversation mostly focused on men’s basketball and the Under Armour people made a good impression with their views of the Shockers. Shocker basketball thrives on its attitude and desire to knock off big names. There’s similarities with Under Armour’s pursuit of older shoe companies.
“People’s perception of us is that we’re gritty,” Blanding said. “It’s always nice to meet someone for the first time and they already have an understanding and a knowledge of what you want and what you deserve.”
The rollout of Under Armour gear will be incremental as other contracts expire. Men’s basketball will remain with Nike through the 2017-18 season. Volleyball and softball will wear Adidas through 2019-20. Track and field (2018) and tennis (2019) will also honor existing contracts. For fans, Under Armour products will roll out as the teams come under the contract.
Blanding said the Flying W logo, long a trademark of baseball caps and recently adopted by softball, will grow to secondary use in other sports to complement WuShock, the Shocker mascot. Athletics will diminish its use of the WSU wheat logo, which will primarily appear as a university symbol. The Flying W is easy to reproduce on many products and easy to recognize, which gives it versatility more detailed logos lack.
“WuShock is really hard to stitch,” Blanding said. “The Flying W is a really easy way for us to fly the Wichita flag in different areas and smaller areas.”
Under Armour is known for its bold and sometimes outlandish uniforms, especially with football teams. Those looks are a few years away for the Shockers. In the early stages of the contract, Blanding wants to build WSU’s look with its font, color schemes (especially yellow) and uniform style before coloring outside the lines. Over the past year, WSU started to work in a new “Wichita State” font for athletics (found, for example on goshockers.com) that will be used on uniforms in all sports as they move to Under Armour.
“We need to establish our consistent brand first before we can get into the alternate uniforms and really branch out,” Blanding said. “In the future, I would say it is nice now that we have a relationship with someone who is going to take the time to think of those things for us.”
Worth noting — Gregg Marshall’s basketball camps run June 5-22 and include two day camps, a shooting camp and a high intensity camp for high school and junior college athletes. For information call (316) 978-3252. … Shocker softball shortstop Laurie Derrico was named to the Missouri Valley Conference’s Scholar-Athlete team. Derrico has a 3.86 grade-point average in exercise science. Senior pitcher Katie Malone earned honorable mention with a 3.29 GPA. … The American Athletic Conference’s spring meetings are May 30-June 1 in Key Biscayne, Fla. WSU administrators will attend.