With its enrollment of 3,500, location near Malibu, Calif., and lack of a football program, it's not surprising that Pepperdine University and its affiliated marks aren't instantly recognized on the national collegiate athletics scene.
A recent poll revealed that at least a majority of respondents could correctly name the primary athletic logo for the University of Oregon Ducks (59 percent of respondents), University of Texas Longhorns (62 percent), University of Washington Huskies (68 percent), University of Michigan Wolverines (70 percent), University of Georgia Bulldogs (76 percent) and University of Miami Hurricanes (94 percent). However, only 23 percent correctly selected Pepperdine's main emblem. What makes those results particularly unsettling is the fact that 42 percent of the poll's 102 respondents were Pepperdine students, and of those students, 53 percent were Pepperdine student-athletes.
For the record, Pepperdine's main logo spells out "Pepperdine Waves" against a cresting wave graphic.
But according to The Graphic, Pepperdine's student newspaper, an abundance of secondary logos — including a solitary "P" (which appears most often on facilities and apparel) as well as that same "P" above the word "Waves" (the logo ESPN uses during broadcasts) — have gained traction as a result of the freedom provided to each individual coach of the school’s 17 Division I sports teams.
“We really allow our sports to do what they want,” senior associate director of athletics Karina Herold, who helped retool the schools athletics identity upon arriving in 2011, told the paper. “We want to make sure that teams could have what I like to call ‘unique consistency.’ ”
Instead, Pepperdine appears to have fostered unrivaled confusion. That's a shame, since Pepperdine Athletics is one of the most successful NCAA Division I departments without a football program. In the 2017-18 Directors' Cup, a ranking of schools based on the performance of all their sports programs, Pepperdine finished third out of all non-football schools and No. 89 overall.
“Often, if you can’t recognize the logo, then the brand isn’t doing a good enough job in establishing itself,” Rachel Jolly, a senior integrated marketing and communications major, told The Graphic. “As a company, one of your main goals should be to work to create a brand that’s recognizable, and something that people have strong associations with.”