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UND puts thousands of dollars into nickname task force

As UND’s new nickname task force gets closer to completing the plan the university could use to pick a new logo, change is becoming more and more of a reality.

But change requires funding.

As of Dec. 30, the university had spent a total of $126,261.95 on everything the Nickname and Logo Process Recommendation Task Force required, including food, IT equipment rental, various office supplies and printing, consultants, room rentals for community forums, travel and IT systems.

The task force is considering recommending appointing another committee that, through a series of public polls, would ultimately choose a permanent name for the school. UND’s Fighting Sioux name was retired in December 2012 after the NCAA threatened sanctions.

Moving forward, university officials are hesitant to say how much they’re willing to spend on the endeavor.

“We wanted to leave some flexibility because, of course, going into it we didn't know what other needs or requests the task force might have and so we wanted to leave some flexibility for that,” UND Vice President for University and Public Affairs Susan Walton said. “There is certainly not an endless cap on any of this. We evaluated the additional opportunities for meetings and feedback gathering carefully as they came in and determined they were things the task force needed to do its job well.”

Drawing comparisons

Developing a new nickname and logo is one thing, but implementing it across the state is another story altogether.

Walton said she couldn’t even begin to speculate how much it will cost to replace jerseys, and logos at the Hyslop Sports Center and in other buildings across campus, just to name a few things. The University of South Dakota went through a rebranding in 2011 and the school’s Marketing Department director said they’re still replacing the old logo.

“There was a conscious effort to get all the obvious things changed within a reasonably quick amount of time, but that is easier to do at the college level,” Tena Haraldson said. “It gets harder to do it when you go down to each department and then to the business cards people have in their desk.”

At USD, about $110,000 was set aside in the annual budget for the rebranding effort. The largest piece of that fund, $18,700, was spent on changing a large electronic roadside sign and the rest was spent on replacing other major signs throughout the university’s various locations, recruitment literature, online software and other highly visible objects, Haraldson said.

This did not include athletic jerseys because Haraldson said they are bought on a cycle as they get old and the timing of the logo switch lined up with a new cycle of jerseys.

“If there was anything that was due for new purchase in a reasonable amount of time, we just waited and bought the items with the new logo,” Haraldson said in an email. “But that was money that was going to be spent anyway.”

In UND’s case, Walton didn’t want to speculate how much rebranding would cost in total before the nickname task force turns in its final plan to President Robert Kelley some time this month.

“Since we don't know at this point what the outcome of this is going to be for us, it would be very, very difficult and we couldn't speculate, since we don't know what the process recommendations are going to be going forward,” she said.

UND spokesman Peter Johnson said replacing old logos at sporting event venues across Grand Forks, like the Alerus Center and Ralph Engelstad Arena, would require cooperation with those entities as they are not owned by the university.

Change isn’t cheap

The current task force has had to acquire meeting rooms and some online technology in order to gather information from the public, and the nearly $126,262 in funding for that has come from the university’s general fund, Johnson said.

"With all these things together, it's really important to remember this allowed this task force to engage nearly 8,000 people,” Walton said.

The majority of expenses went toward paying two consultants who assisted the task force over the course of about four months: Marie Miyashiro, president of the consulting firm Elucity Network, and Kelly O’Keefe, professor of advertising at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter.

The two were chosen for the job after Walton sought recommendations from colleagues throughout the country, including people at the public relations firm PadillaCRT and Logos Consulting Group, with whom Walton has worked with before.

While university officials did look at how much airfare and hotels would cost, Johnson said there wasn’t a predetermined budget allocation.

"It's not like it was a specific budget figure at the very beginning and that's, again, not untypical of how committees and task forces work here,” he said.

Miyashiro was paid $69,740 plus an extra $15,000 compensation for one extra meeting and one additional day of service. O’Keefe was paid $16,000. Both received a $46 per day allowance and were also compensated for their travel expenses, which also cost thousands of dollars.

Sheri Kleinsasser Stockmoe, task force co-chair, said the consultants have been extremely valuable.

“I think they really helped us stay on track,” she said. “They gave us key insight into things we should really consider and at the same time they really consulted. They didn't tell us what to do. They valued our opinions and our input, and I think they were invaluable to us.”

Moving forward

If the task force sticks with its current draft recommendation of appointing a 15-person committee that would hold input gathering sessions similar to the task force, there will be more expenses.

"We always keep a watchful eye with great consideration on expenditures and will be thoughtful and deliberate with whatever happens with that,” Walton said.

The task force’s draft also suggests using a marketing and branding expert, but Walton said she wanted to wait until the final plan was filed before speculating as to whether Miyashiro or O’Keefe would be considered for the job.

Stockmoe said the task force’s positive experience with the consultants affected the group’s decision to include that idea in its plan.

“None of us know everything and we’re lucky enough to have people and resources that did know,” she said. “Why would we not want to tap into their expertise? I think it’s invaluable to have people like that helping.”

Walton said the most important thing is making sure the people involved in picking a permanent nickname feel supported by the university.

"We have evaluated everything as it's come along,” Walton said. “We thought very long and hard about the level of resources we ought to put towards this effort and it’s not a decision we make lightly, but this is an important effort and we really wanted to do it right. The task force's recommendations could have an impact on the university for many years to come.”

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.