Identity Crisis

To regain control of its brand, the University of Hawaii had to remake it.

September, 2000

A brightly colored anachronism too easily confused with other symbols? A piece of island sports history that shouldn’t be tampered with? The debate rages on. But whatever fans feel about the aesthetics or politics of the University of Hawaii’s old logo, one thing is sure: The rainbow was a loser.

H Power: Designer Kurt Osaki and his latest creation.

According to June Jones, long before the football team started its slide in the WAC standings, UH lost control of its identity. “We simply lost track of who was selling our stuff,” says Jones. “The revenues were there, about $3 or $4 million, but we were probably losing the same amount of money to people selling our logo illegally. Go to the swap meet and everyone is selling UH stuff. We aren’t getting any revenue from those people who are selling our property.”

The first step in recapturing the school’s identity was to remake it, a move initiated shortly after Jones’ arrival last year, long before ‘99’s miraculous 9-4 season. (The university unveiled the “H” logo on July 26th at a gala, invitation-only gathering.) The second step was to hire BHPC International Marketing and Licensing, a merchandising firm, to market and protect its new brand.

“With the old identity Hawaii’s merchandising program was floundering,” says BHCP’s head Roger Tomlinson. “Since coming on board we have clamped down. We’ve been reaching agreements with businesses that want to sell UH products and terminating associations with the ones who haven’t paid the school in years. We are also working with the police department and intend on prosecuting those selling illegal items to the fullest extent of the law.”

Tomlinson and his firm, which has a brand of its own called Beverly Hills Polo Club and has done similar marketing agreements with Harvard University and the San Diego Zoo, predicts the more aggressive efforts will triple earnings for the school.

Tomlinson is also busy working on a new line of beachwear, cosmetics, eyewear and luggage and bags. Called Kulanui (“university” in Hawaiian), the collection is loosely based on a line of clothing and merchandise that Tomlinson developed for Harvard called The Graduate Collection. Tomlinson has high hopes for the line and plans to work closely with local, national and international vendors, along with tourist industry officials to market the brand far and wide. He intends to pay particular attention to Asia.

“The potential for Kulanui is tremendous,” says Tomlinson. “The whole world loves Americana. And Hawaii has something very special to offer. People might not be able to go to a game or even visit the Islands but they will be able to buy our merchandise.”

 

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