Just in time for the start of the school year, the Linn-Mar Community School District has given itself a makeover.
The school district has already begun using the new lion mascot as well as a new logo, which retains the school system’s red and black colors.
A release from Communications and Media Relations Coordinator Sandie Rohrer said that revamping the district’s look was both “an effort to unify the district’s brand” and a response to “a lack of brand control.”
“As we continue to grow, I think it’s important, given our culture, that we really have a strong voice in representing Linn-Mar in all the various venues,” said Linn-Mar Superintendent Katie Mulholland. “We have a desire in our community to be identified with Linn-Mar. Having that unified representation really means a lot to us now.”
Linn-Mar has 10 schools dedicated to educating students who range from kindergarten through 12th grade and Bowman Woods Elementary School, which identifies as the bobcats, is the lone one that does not use the lion mascot. Between those buildings and even depending on the activity, various logos and mascots had been used to represent the district.
“We wanted a little more camaraderie and continuity among our athletic teams,” said Tonya Moe, associate athletic director for Linn-Mar High School. “We’re really excited to have one continuous look that represents Linn-Mar.”
The school district has a policy that uniforms are replaced on a four-year cycle, so new apparel with the updated logo and mascot will be phased in. District stationary and other items with the old design scheme will simply be used and re-ordered with the new branding once they run out, Mulholland said, as opposed to immediately eliminating all materials with the outdated logos. Building signage will be updated as well though the superintendent did not specify when.
The new mascot, logo and accompanying style guide are the culmination of more than two years of work, for which the district partnered with Cedar Rapids-based advertising agency J.W. Morton and Associates. The agency donated the mascot illustration but the district did not provide information about the cost of the project by press time.
Mulholland noted that the largest expense will be the estimated $5,000 to $6,000 the district will spend on services from Simmons Perrine Moyer Bergman PLC, a local law firm handling the trademarks, copyright and license agreement work.
Community partnerships can be important when it comes to image initiatives, said Waukee Community School District Communications Coordinator Nicole Lawrence. That school system, located near Des Moines, is still in the midst of an 18-month journey to redefine its visual identity.
An area advertising agency, which Lawrence declined to name, has done the district’s rebranding at no cost.
“It’s a big savings for the district,” she said.
Pride and presentation
Waukee’s rebranding efforts were spurred by a decision that the Native American Warrior mascot the district used was no longer acceptable, Lawrence said. The district is still working on finalizing a replacement but once that’s complete, the district will also secure trademarks and licensing.
“It’s mainly about the kids. The kids come here and they’re really proud of their school, they like wearing shirts that represent where they go to school,” Lawrence said. “It’s about really giving the community something they can have to represent their school district. I think it’s a trend you’re going to see a lot of districts going through … School pride is just a big part of a school district.”
David Morton, president of marketing services at J.W. Morton and Associates, which also handled the district’s Linn-Mar 2020 initiative, praised the district’s decision to rebrand and the message the move sends to the community.
“I think it says that they understand that they’re providing an education and that they take their job very seriously and they’re paying attention to how they present themselves,” said Morton, whose daughter attends Linn-Mar High School.
The district announcement states that area organizations, such as sports teams and clubs, will be able to use the new logo and mascot as long as members all sign a district code of conduct, a move motivated “to ensure that participants and their fans demonstrate good behavior and the spirit of Linn-Mar while representing the schools.”
“Just like a corporation would, they want to make sure that every presentation of the district is positive,” Morton said. “I think the school district world has evolved. They’re selling a brand of education as much as anyone is, so presentation becomes important.”
This is only the first step for Linn-Mar, Superintendent Mulholland cautioned, as the district’s enrollment continues to grow. Within the next decade the district may rebrand again.
“Our challenge will be, in eight or nine years, if there is a second high school, what will be the choice then?,” she said. “Will the schools decide that they want to change?”