Oregon Ducks: Their rise as a college football brand

A recap of last week's chat.

  • Few stories in college football are as remarkable as the rise of the Oregon Ducks in the past 15 years. But it's not just on the football field that the Ducks have dominated -- they've also done so as a distinct brand on the overall sports scene.

    We recently hosted a live chat with Oregon associate athletic director Craig Pintens, Los Angeles Times national college football writer Chris Dufresne and marketing guru Ed O'Hara on the subject. Here are the highlights: 

    On where Oregon's program stood in 1999:

    Ducks had virtually NO national buzz, still stuck with an inferiority complex I would say even though the program was solid with Mike Bellotti at the helm.Chris DufresneMay 7, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    We weren't really there.  We had never recorded a 10 win season.  We started playing football in 1894 and had been to just 14 bowl games.  -- Craig Pintens, Oregon associate athletic director.

    It 2001, Oregon made a national splash with its Heisman campaign on behalf of quarterback Joey Harrington. The school plastered a giant photo of the Ducks star in New York's Times Square:

    Joey Harrington's massive photo in Times Square represented a sea-change in Oregon's marketing efforts (Photo: Oregonlive.com

    O'Hara and Dufresne, in particular, were impressed by the strategy:

    Incredible moment...being a New Yorker, we were all puzzled by this initially and then realized its brilliance. It was clear that Nike was using this campaign as a platform to elevate the O's national prominence as well as to use it to sell more products and services.Edward O'Haraon May 7 at 12:16 PM

    Yep, there was a Joey Football before Johnny Football. Well, make that Joey Heisman. I'll never forget that campaign and what it did for the program. It wasn't positive at first. Tremendous backlash from national types....audacious. The funny part was Joey H. was the nicest guy, very modest. It took a lot for him to put himself out there like that.Chris Dufresneon May 7 at 12:15 PM

    The next move in the Oregon re-branding strategy was a huge investment in world-class athletic facilities. The gambit took advantage of the limitations of its rivals, who couldn't keep up because of financial and other limitations. Duck benefactor and Nike founder Phil Knight's contributions were crucial to this initiative.

    Oregon, with Phil Knight, had a big advantage to upgrade facilities and take advantage of the things that UCLA and USC did not have. The SoCal facilities were sub-standard. UCLA practiced on an 80-yard field. Still does. USC's facilities were shockingly lacking for a program of its stature. California was a mess....Chris Dufresneon May 7 at 12:26 PM

    Inside Oregon's Football Performance Center
    by chris.huston via YouTube

    Through the generosity of Phil and Penny Knight, the University has built facilities that focus on student-athletes including the treatment center, the Jaqua Academic Center and now this building. This commitment to student-athletes has led to unparalleled success at the University of Oregon.pintenson May 7 at 12:28 PM

    In recent years, Oregon has become a trail blazer with its sleek, space-age uniforms, making its brand even more distinctive in the college football world.

    It was really part of the rebrand of Oregon Athletics. Tinker Hatfield and Michael Doherty from NIKE were there are the beginning along with Jim Bartko from our staff. The goal was to have the most innovative uniforms and technology available. It just so happened they also looked different and were designed to attract the younger demographic.pintenson May 7 at 12:38 PM

    Oregon football and Nike have made uniforms fashion, therefore change is necessary. Also it expresses the innovative base of the relationship and the products and services. Again, it keep everyone asking "What's next?"Edward O'Haraon May 7 at 12:39 PM

    Oregon's uniforms are now in perfect synergy with the team's uptempo style of play. You have to play uptempo in those uniforms. Not doing so would be like the San Diego Chargers of the old AFL being a cloud-of-dust running team. Just doesn't work with that lightning bolt.Chris Dufresneon May 7 at 12:41 PM

    The panelists agreed that the lack of a tradition was a key to implementing change.

    Absolutely easier to make that change, have often been told at Oregon "Our tradition is we have no tradition." When I first started I didn't know what that meant. I get it now. We are constantly evolving and just when you think you have it figured out, we will change again. Always looking for what is next, always innovating.pintenson May 7 at 12:41 PM

    Tradition can be an albatross sometimes.Edward O'Haraon May 7 at 12:42 PM

    How Nike's Visual Tricks Made the Oregon Ducks Look Fast (Despite Defeat)

    Co.DesignOregon suffered defeat at the hands of Cam Newton and Auburn last night in the 2011 BCS championship game. But hard as it may have been to watch the...

    Oregon now stands as perhaps THE premier college football brand, with many others around the country starting to emulate it.

    I think Oregon IS the national brand of college football right now. Notre Dame has a more traditional hold and will dominate when the Irish are competing for national titles. But Oregon redefined the genre of brand, style and uniform. Everyone else is playing copy cat. Look at all the other teams playing LIKE Oregon right now. And dressing like Oregon.Chris Dufresneon May 7 at 12:49 PM

    it's being emulated as we speak. Maryland (under armour) and even Notre Dame (adidas) to name a couple with special occasion uniforms as well as the proliferation of secondary and alternative uniforms is a commonality. And its all all window dressing though as fans understand that this is a merchandising play.Edward O'Haraon May 7 at 12:54 PM

    It is ironic, everybody wanted to be Notre Dame, Alabama,  LSU, Oklahoma, Michigan, Ohio State because of their tradition.  That has changed.  Look West, Young Man. -- Craig Pintens

    Scribble Tips: Material from a chat can be repurposed to create a whole new content item. With the quotes, for instance, you can easily produce a long-form feature or a Q & A. In this case, our re-cap gives the highlights of the chat and entices the reader to want to see the full transcript.

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