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Division II membership decides new brand moniker

‘Make It Yours’ will replace ‘I Chose Division II’

Hundreds of Division II administrators and student-athletes filed into an NCAA Convention meeting room Friday morning to make their mark on Division II history.

Hundreds of Division II administrators and student-athletes filed into an NCAA Convention meeting room Friday morning to shape the division’s future. When the moment came, they lowered their heads and pulled out their cell phones, tapped the keys a few times, then pressed “send.”

Seconds later, the text-message voting results – cast during the Division II Issues Forum – were final and the new Division II tagline was revealed: “Make It Yours.”

More than 450 people voted for the moniker over the second option, “We Go All Out,” which received only 64 votes.

The new “Make It Yours” moniker grew out of an extensive process, the roots of which sprouted from the 2013 Division II census. At that time, members voiced interest in replacing the current eight-year-old slogan “I Chose Division II” with one that could also resonate with younger, external audiences, such as prospective student-athletes.  

Division II partnered with a Kansas City marketing firm – Blacktop Creative – to lead the brand-enhancement efforts for Division II. The marketers visited campuses, distributed surveys and interviewed members of groups that interact with Division II programs – including high school students and parents – to better understand the unique attributes of Division II. They repeatedly heard that Division II is about balance and opportunity, but that it lacks awareness among the public.

From their findings, the Blacktop team developed a “brand story” that captures the essence of the division and will serve as the basis for the rest of the brand campaign, including the typography, colors and style of photography. The Division II story, Blacktop told the crowd is resourceful, sincere and driven.

“You guys are in a context of a larger nomenclature – there is a Division I and there is a III,” said Blacktop Creative President Shawn Polowniak. “What is beholden upon us is to create relevancy around your designation (as the middle division).”

Last fall, Blacktop presented potential monikers to the top committees in Division II, which narrowed the choices down to three. More than 1,900 Division II student-athletes and 500 high school athletes then weighed in, revealing a clear preference for “Make It Yours” and “We Go All Out.”

Before final voting between the two took place Friday, members had the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. Former Molloy College baseball player John Galanoudis announced the Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee’s support of “Make It Yours.” He explained their belief that “We Go All Out” was not unique to Division II and evoked too much of a focus on athletics, while “Make It Yours” communicates the division’s “life in the balance” philosophy.

“We’ve all taken our DII experience and made it ours,” Galanoudis added. “Every day a student-athlete going through this process is making it theirs. Everybody’s going to add their own story to it.”

While “Make It Yours” may not have been his first choice from the start, Doug Blais, a faculty athletics representative at Southern New Hampshire University, said SAAC’s stance swayed his vote in the end. “The national SAAC really kept us focused on what the end goal was: it wasn’t about us, it’s about them,” Blais said. “I’m not the target audience.”

Friday’s vote starts the next chapter in the division’s brand enhancement, as more key concepts will be developed throughout the spring with a rollout planned for the next academic year.

“Today’s session was another great example of the division taking ownership over its future strategic direction, and an example of listening to the input of the Division II SAAC,” said Terri Steeb Gronau, the vice president of Division II. “This is the division’s brand and initiative, and the membership will continue to be involved collectively to implement the brand enhancement in the coming months. In essence, the division is ‘making it theirs’ when it comes to the new brand direction.”

Orender delivers keynote

Also at the Division II Issues Forum on Friday, keynote speaker Donna Orender shared her path from Division II athletics to success as a prominent sports executive. Orender played basketball at Queens College and went on to compete professionally for three years. She worked for the PGA Tour for 17 years and served as the WNBA president before launching her own consulting company.

Her participation in sports, especially during a time when few athletics opportunities were available for women, instilled a steady strength and confidence in Orender.  

“It’s why I like hiring athletes,” Orender said. “Anyone who comes in with a résumé that says they played a sport, and I don’t even care what level, I know their muscles – their most important muscles – have been developed.”

To Orender, that development – along with the relationships formed along the way –  are the real trophies won in sports. “Thank you,” she told the audience, “for what you do every day – for providing the greatest gift of all.”