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Behind the Final Four: 4 Surprising Brand Stories to Tell at Halftime


The month of March is coming to an end, and the NCAA basketball tournament has been nothing if not full of madness. Fans across the nation erupted in cheers last weekend as the Elite Eight was whittled down to the Final Four during four exciting games. This year’s men’s March Madness championship will be hosted in Houston on April 2nd, where Villanova’s Wildcats will play the Oklahoma Sooners, and the Syracuse Orange will face off against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.

To commemorate each of the four men’s teams who’ve advanced this far, we decided to explore the untold stories behind each university’s brand. From wild bobcats to General E. Lee, this post is sure to give you a few talking points you can impress your friends with at halftime this weekend.

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Villanova Wildcats vs. Oklahoma Sooners

Villanova Fun Fact:

Fans of Villanova basketball are no stranger to the University’s bobcat mascot, which struts around on the gymnasium floor boasting large paws and sharp teeth (much to the dismay of children spectators). What most modern fans don’t know is that the University was once represented by a live bobcat. Each bobcat mascot was named Count Villan, and was kept in a cage at the field house before being presented to the crowd during home and away games. Since the bobcats often displayed behavioral issues and had short life spans, Villanova decided to ditch the animal for a costume-clad student in 1950.

Villanova Logo

Villanova Logo:

Villanova’s iconic “V” logo is adorned with the University’s signature blue (also known as Pantone 281). The thin signature blue outline around the “V” works in harmony with the light blue accent color to create a sense of sophistication. Meanwhile, the multiple “V” shapes created within the logo’s negative space help to reinforce the strength of the Villanova name in a more subtle manner.


 

Oklahoma Fun Fact:

Oklahoma’s mascot, the Sooner Schooner, is a smaller version of a Conestoga wagon. The Sooner Schooner is an ode to Oklahoma’s land rush of 1889, as well as American westward expansion. Oklahoma’s first Sooner Schooner appeared on the field behind a pair of white Shetland ponies, who gracefully walked around the end zone as to not damage the field’s grass. If you attend a Sooners game today, you’ll find that things have changed. The Sooner Schooner appears on the field every single time OU scores, and the covered wagon has come to represent both the school and its place in national history.

oklahoma sooners logo

Oklahoma Logo:

The Sooners’ iconic OU symbol has been used to represent the University’s athletic teams since 1967. The most current version of the interlocking OU exists in solid Oklahoma Crimson. This simple, yet sophisticated appearance helps OU stand out from other Final Four teams, which all have an accent color or outline adorning their logo.


 

Syracuse Orange vs. University of North Carolina Tar Heels

Syracuse Fun Fact:

Syracuse’s original mascot, The Saltine Warrior, was based upon an urban legend. The tale arose in 1928 during the construction of the women’s gymnasium, when it was said that the body of an Onondagan chief was discovered. The Native American character was called “Saltine” due to Syracuse’s role as the major national salt exporter of the time. Syracuse is still referred to as “Salt City,” yet the mascot officially changed to Otto the Orange in 1995. Today, you can find the anthropomorphic orange proudly dancing around at university sporting events and taking selfies with students and faculty.

Syracuse University Logo

Syracuse Logo:

Far from the Saltine warrior, the private University now boasts a brightly colored, orange “S” outlined with Syracuse Athletics Navy. The contrast of these two colors helps shape a bold logo that is easily recognizable on and off the court. The orange color is also symbolic of the school’s long legacy of famous basketball icons.


 

University of North Carolina Fun Fact:

The Tar Heels name dates back to the eighteenth century, when North Carolina was a major producer and exporter of tar (created by the state’s abundant pine trees). Legend also suggests that the Tar Heels got their name from an event during the Revolutionary War, when the British found their feet covered with tar when crossing through a Carolina river. Other sources note a Civil War story, when a group of General Robert E. Lee’s soldiers began to retreat after he led them into battle. Lee supposedly yelled “God Bless the Tar Heel boys” because the steadfast soldiers had threatened to stick tar to the heels of the cowardice ones, to get them to stay.

North Carolina Tar Heels Logo

University of North Carolina Logo:

The origin of the Tar Heels’ nickname may vary, but the iconic Carolina blue color has been in place since the university’s athletic program began. UNC is known for being a powerhouse in sports like basketball, soccer, and field hockey. The school recently teamed up with Nike to give their sports program a visual boost and reinforce this reputation. Today, the lettering on the interconnected UNC is slightly stylized with a strong navy outline to evoke a sense of modernity and strength.

4 Final Four Brands, Only 1 Champion Team

When it comes to logo designs, we give all of these teams an A+. When it comes to predicting the winning team, we’re not as certain.

This year’s March Madness tournament has been filled with unexpected twists and turns, and at this point in the game, we’re confident that just about anything could happen. For now, our only option is to clear our schedules to watch these outstanding teams face off.


Michelle Polizzi is a freelance writer and former content coordinator for Brandfolder. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her bicycling around Denver, catching a live concert or cooking up a fresh vegetarian dish.

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