To Celebrate Its Fifth Birthday, ESPNU Gives Its Logo a New Look

In celebration of the five-year anniversary of the network’s launch and of its hitting the 70 million-home distribution mark, ESPNU has refreshed the look of its logo. The new college- and sports-themed network logos are designed as a tribute to college sports as a part of college life and are customized for institutions in 11 conferences.

“We tried to capture the college experience but through a sports lens,” says Creative Director Mark Groeschner. “We wanted to show that our approach to covering college sports is not solely about sports but a little bit about student life as well.”

To make that clear in a graphics package, the letter U in ESPNU has been designed to morph into a series of forms, from simply taking on a school’s colors to transforming into its mascot.

“We essentially wanted to make the U come to life,” Groeschner explains. “When the research and production teams talked to students, they found out that college viewers don’t just watch games on TV; they check their PDAs for scores on other games; they tweet and instant-message about their viewing experience. There’s a lot more to sports than just watching the game, and we wanted to help reinterpret the brand so that it would have a little more mass appeal.”

Taking inspiration from the 1980s MTV graphics, in which the M in MTV constantly took on different forms, Groeschner’s team set out to do the same with the U in ESPNU, making it more than just a red letter. The U will now take different shapes on-air, transforming into individual mascots and even becoming a three-dimensional college campus, complete with Greek life, a packed basketball arena, and more-prominent positioning of the network’s motto, “Never Graduate.”

Using Maya, Cinema 4D, and Adobe After Effects, ESPNU collaborated with Los Angeles-based National Television to create the graphical look. There, a team of 15 people helped morph the U into the animated mascots of teams in nearly a dozen collegiate athletic conferences.

“We designed mascots and animated mascots based on 11 different conferences, so it took a lot of manpower,” Groeschner says. “We started brainstorming the initial explorations about a year ago.”

Those explorations grew into a full universe of 15-second animations that showcase the breadth of campus life, from tailgates, to volleyball games, to the football stadium, all existing within the 3D ESPNU logo.

“Creating this universe really was a house of cards,” Groeschner explains. “It was a leap of faith, hoping that the camera moves that you saw in the wire-frame animation would come out like we envisioned in the story boards. Eventually, we found our groove and were really able to do that, but kicking off the first handful of animations was challenging.”

As of March 1, more than 70 million homes are able to enjoy these new graphics; 70.4 million homes now have access to the network. In 2009-10, ESPNU will present nearly 2,650 hours of live-event coverage, with 872 of those hours in high definition.

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