Marketing / Teams


Clemson championship logo

Author Michael Auerbach, University of San Francisco

Author Frances Esguerra, University of San Francisco

Author Oliver Enos, University of San Francisco

Posted: April 25, 2017

Tagged: Brand equity

Gladden (2014) defines brand equity as a set of assets and liabilities associated with a brand that contributes to the value it provides its customers. Because equity is shaped in part by the associations made in the minds of consumers, brand management efforts focus on building a strong, unique, and favorable image of a sport entity with the ultimate goal of creating both attitudinal and behavioral loyalty among fans (Gladden, 2014). The championship logo designed to commemorate the Clemson Tigers’ 2016 CFP title win incorporates elements that are “uniquely Clemson” with the purpose of building the Clemson brand through positive associations with its image (Smith, 2017, para. 10).

Clemson’s championship logo is part of its identity, both in terms of marketing and team pride (Dalakas & Rose, 2014). The logo is a symbol that distinguishes Clemson University from other schools and is critical for merchandising and social media (Dalakas & Rose, 2014). That is exactly what Clemson University was primarily thinking when they selected Jeff Kallin, a Clemson alumnus and Clemson’s lead graphic designer, to create Clemson’s national championship logo, which “now adorns every piece of Clemson championship merchandise,” as well as the avatar for the Clemson football Twitter account (Smith, 2017, para. 2). As with any sport organization, there must be a balance between keeping the logo fresh and current but without compromising the tradition (Dalakas & Rose, 2014). Clemson achieved this balance because they “made sure everybody was in the loop, and the logo has become a theme for every extension of the university” (Smith, 2017, para. 19).

A team’s logo is a brand attribute that can be leveraged to build equity by capitalizing on the team’s uniqueness and strengthening its identity (Gladden, 2014). Clemson’s championship mark utilizes distinctive images that are unique to the school to evoke deeper meaning and value for the consumer through the consumption of the sport product (Gladden, 2014). Important symbols have been added to the Clemson championship logo, and Kallin best described it by saying, “the orange semi-circle with 2016 in it is supposed to look like a rising sun, indicative of a Clemson football program on the rise” (Smith, 2017, para. 24). A year ago, Clemson lost the national championship to Alabama, and this year the school finished strong by winning their second championship in school history. The past two seasons clearly indicate a rise in Clemson football, and the orange semi-circle symbol is a great representation of that. The two palm trees located on each side of the rising sun “represent the Tigers’ two national championships, both won in Florida”, one in Miami in 1981 and one this past season in Tampa (Smith, 2017, para. 8). By reminding fans of Clemson’s winning history through the symbolic palm trees, the logo can instill pride in and provide positive nostalgic benefits for the consumers (Gladden, 2014). Another symbol within the logo that is accurately interpreted by Clemson fans are the stripes at the top that represent the team’s helmet. Unlike most schools, Clemson’s football team only has one helmet. Conceptually, the stripes of orange, purple, and white distinctively represent the University of Clemson’s football brand. The inclusion of Clemson’s unique helmet style on the championship logo can reinforce identification with the team among consumers through the privilege of being able to wear the same one-of-a-kind design as the players they support (Gladden, 2014).

Malkewitz and Bee (2014) explain that brand artifacts in a sport entity’s logo facilitate fan recall of the conceptual meanings and symbolism associated with the illustrations. Conceptual design principles must be applied in a systematic and effective manner to create an impactful brand (Malkewitz & Bee, 2014). In order for an artifact’s symbolism and meaning to have an effect, a common meaning for the symbol must exist and that meaning must be accurately interpreted by consumers and fans (Malkewitz & Bee, 2014). Clemson’s championship mark provides value through the incorporation of artifacts that represent traditions unique to the team (Smith, 2017). Kallin took initiative by including Clemson’s most iconic image, Howard’s Rock. Howard’s Rock is a large piece of white flint that is displayed at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium. Before kickoff, each member of the football team rubs this iconic symbol as a good luck charm before running down onto the field. What makes Clemson’s championship logo inconspicuous is that it does not include the iconic Howard’s Rock within the logo, but the logo itself is bordered and shaped like the pedestal that holds Howard’s Rock. This iconic representation of Howard’s Rock represents a conceptual design element influencing the clarity of the logo, and the content of the Clemson football brand. The representation of the team’s traditions through the meaning and symbolism in the logo builds equity by reinforcing Clemson’s brand image as unique (Malkewitz & Bee, 2014). This creates value for consumers by subtly emphasizing Tiger Nation as an exclusive club for those who understand the meaning behind the symbols, strengthening their identification with other true fans and perpetuating brand loyalty development.

Even more difficult to directly impact are attitudes, which represent a consumer’s evaluation or judgement of a brand as a whole (Gladden, 2014). In order to increase empathy among consumers and fans, individuals who are greatly familiar with and knowledgeable about a team and its fans are “more capable of designing appealing brand artifacts” (Malkewitz & Bee, 2014, p. 98). Clemson demonstrates this understanding by entrusting its championship logo design to Jeff Kallin. He has a unique journey in being the creator behind the logo, because “he’s completely self-taught as a designer” (Smith, 2017, para. 4). Kallin never took a design class in college and it wasn’t until the last couple of years that he could have imagined making history as a self-taught designer. A feeling of uniqueness is felt towards the Clemson football brand, because the innovator behind their championship logo did not graduate with a degree in graphic designing, yet he was able to produce a meaningful logo. Another feeling that was created towards the Clemson football brand was likability. Coincidentally, Kallin also happens to be a University of Clemson alumni who received his degree in parks, recreation, and tourism management. Current students and alumni can share this story for years on how a fellow Clemson graduate created a remarkable championship logo. As a Clemson student or fan of their football brand, one can argue that likeability was created because an internal candidate with deep Clemson roots was chosen for this special project. His championship logo effectively represents Clemson as a unique brand by employing “the orange blood running through his veins” (Smith, 2017, para 5).

Through the national championship logo, Kallin has managed to successfully increase Clemson’s brand benefit in the form of identification (Gladden, 2014). Clemson fans feel as if they have succeeded in conjunction with their football team (Gladden, 2014). The championship logo evokes emotional exhilaration amongst these identifying fans, and the logo ensures that Clemson fans will be forever connected to the football team and the university that it represents.



Dalakas, V., & Rose, G. (2014). Developing brand identity in sport: lions, and tigers, and bears oh my. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging brands in sport business (pp. 109-122). New York, NY: Routledge.

Gladden, J. (2014). Brand equity: management and measurement in sport. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging brands in sport business (pp. 3-20). New York, NY: Routledge.

Malkewitz, K., & Bee, C. (2014). Undertaking successful brand design in sport. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging brands in sport business (pp. 89-108). New York, NY: Routledge.

Smith, M. (2017, February 13). Alum’s championship logo is uniquely Clemson. SportsBusiness Journal, 19(41), 6. Retrieved from

About Michael Auerbach, University of San Francisco

Michael Auerbach is a graduate of San Francisco State University, where he received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Management. His leadership skills have helped him thrive within the Stanford University Athletic Department. Michael works full-time at Facebook as a member of the community operations team. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Sport Management at the University of San Francisco, and is contactable via LinkedIn.


This is an edited version of a paper Michael prepared for Professor Michael Goldman‘s Sport Marketing course at the University of San Francisco.

About Frances Esguerra, University of San Francisco

Frances Esguerra is a graduate of University of California, Davis, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Biology. While at UC Davis, she worked as a student athletic trainer and physical therapy intern and volunteered at the Acute Rehabilitation Unit at Mercy General Hospital and Shriners Hospital for Children in Sacramento. She is currently a graduate student in the University of San Francisco’s Sport Management program, and is contactable via LinkedIn.


This is an edited version of a paper Frances prepared for Professor Michael Goldman‘s Sport Marketing course at the University of San Francisco.

About Oliver Enos, University of San Francisco

Oliver Enos is a former United States Marine Corps officer and Loyola Marymount University graduate, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Sport Management at the University of San Francisco. His collegiate baseball background has fostered a passion for college athletics, where he seeks an opportunity to serve as a student-athlete academic advisor. He is currently working as an Event Manager in the Stanford University Athletic Department, and is contactable via LinkedIn.


This is an edited version of a paper Oliver prepared for Professor Michael Goldman‘s Sport Marketing course at the University of San Francisco.


IImage by @Clemsontigers,