ASU suspends new Sparky design, offers choices to fans

ASU wanted to bring Sparky into the 21st century with a contemporary redesign.

That didn’t last long.

The Sun Devil nation made it known they didn’t approve of the new costume, and the University plans to go in a different direction.

ASU announced Tuesday in a press release it has scrapped the new mascot’s facial look. It will now turn to its audience to create the next Sparky face.

“We listened to the feedback,” ASU Associate Vice President of Marketing Terri Shafer said. “We read what was said online. We talked to a lot of people who had concerns with not expressing themselves directly to us. We also listened to the feedback that came in through email and by phone. We also talked to student leaders. We also talked to the alumni board and chapter leaders.”

Students, alumni, sports fans, faculty and staff will get a crack at developing the new Sparky costume look next month.

The school is currently developing an online program that will allow Sun Devil nation to customize features of Sparky’s head and face.

Some of the features participants can edit include different colored horns, different sizes and shapes for the eyes. Voters can also affect the face shape including making the chin less prominent and change the mustache and goatee, according to the press release.

The site is scheduled to be available from April 22 to May 5.

Each student, alumni, season ticket holder, donor, faculty and staff member will be able to vote once. ASU tentatively plans to reveal the winning design on Sept. 5 when the Sun Devils open the football regular season against Sacramento State.

Rocky Harris, senior associate athletic director for external relations, said in the press release why the University is making the change.

“Sparky is one of the best-loved mascots in collegiate athletics,” Harris said. “The University is proud that so many people are passionate about him. We have listened, and now we want to give members of the Sun Devil nation the opportunity to provide their input on some of the costume’s features.”

The possibility of an updated Sparky look was teased during the University’s “It’s Time” press conference two years ago, when the athletics department refreshed its brand identity.

ASU finally announced the new design during a press conference on March 1.

Shafer said the design was created using focus groups from the school and Nike in 2010. Both organizations spoke to about 350 student-athletes, fans, donors, alumni and season-ticket holders seeking feedback on the school’s brand identity, which included Sparky the mascot.

Influenced by the 1946 Disney drawing of Sparky, the costume received immediate criticism on Twitter and Facebook. A “Bring the Old ASU Sparky Back” page on Facebook has over 1,700 likes since the announcement.

It was the third redesign of Sparky in the last 11 years. Disney updates Mickey Mouse about every 10 years, and the school wanted to have the same thought process with Sparky.

The design lasted 19 days.

“We are the ones that are responsible with the way the costume turned out,” Shafer said.

The majority of the costume’s criticism has been from the face to the colored horns, the size of the eyes and the size of the chin.

“We listened to that feedback and would like to get everyone and open this up to a more broad to get people’s opinions on the features that we should include on the costume update,” Shafer said.

ASU plans to keep the rest of its Sparky redesign in tact. The rest of the costume’s body will remain the same and the University will continue with Disney’s animated Sparky design.

“We heard good things about the body where we didn’t hear people saying keep the pajamas,” Shafer said. “But the real focus seems to be as far as we can tell is with the head of the face.”

The original Sparky logo will still be printed on apparel and displayed on the playing surfaces of Wells Fargo Arena and Sun Devil Stadium.

USG president Mark Naufel was one of the student leaders that negotiated with the University and admitted he was shocked when the redesign was first unveiled. He said several meetings took place between student leaders from all campuses and administrators to voice the students' concerns about the new Sparky in the last two weeks.

"Sure, the Sparky thing might not be extremely important, but fighting for the process is because of the fact that we didn't know about this and no input," Naufel said.

Now that ASU has turned back to the students, fans and alumni for the process, Naufel believes these recent events have said a lot about the University and the fan base.

"Everything is good now," Naufel said. "It was cool to see students get passionate about something and see the University respond. That's how these things should work and to see it work the way it should is awesome.

"Instead of people saying, 'Oh, the University slighted me,' they should be thinking, 'Wow, the University realized (it was wrong) and now they're putting it in our hands,' and not many universities I think would do that. I think it speaks to ASU a lot as a whole."


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