Lions new look a complete (and controversial) makeover

There was a clear message being sent by the B.C. Lions in the days leading to the grand uniform unveilings undertaken to varying degrees today by the CFL’s nine teams.

This is not, they said, an attempt to go retro.

They were right.

Were they ever.

The league’s new merchandising agreement with adidas gave its branch offices a chance to look at how they present themselves, and as athlete models Emmanuel Arceneaux (above) and Jon Jennings (below) show, no team looked harder than themselves than the Lions.



They may have 60-odd years of tradition locked into their logo but they were nonetheless still willing to do what amounts to a complete makeover, Ty Pennington style. And before you suggest the apparel giant pushed the Lions into change, the nitty-gritty was locally grown, pulled off by the club’s graphic designer, Rich Koh. Here’s Koh, in a club video, talking about the changes.

What the Lions have done, club president Dennis Skulsky admitted, is change more than elements of their logo, though the removal of the BC from their helmets is a clear part of the new look.

“We decided to go from top to socks,” said Skulsky, whose team did a nice job of creating anticipation for the unveiling. “The biggest thought was to look at the future. It’s about the younger generation; a refresh. This is a new era and that’s part of us being the youngest team in the league last year. It’s going to be interesting to see the response.”

To a small extent, that would suggest that both Skulsky and owner David Braley aren’t completely warm and fuzzy about changing what for the most part has worked over the years, a point taken by the club president, who knows he doesn’t represent the target demographic.

“This (redesign) might not appeal to me, but that’s good,” Skulsky said.

“We’re not entirely there (with the changes) but we both understand that (Lions staffers) are making good points (about changing),”

The Lions have already had recent success changing their look, unveiling to rave reviews a gun-metal third jersey. But while players and fans liked the look, they didn’t produce many wins when looking intimidating, and football teams are nothing if not a little superstitious at times. It also didn’t help that the club had only a limited supply of the new togs available initially for sale, underestimating demand.

But that was a couple of years and marketing directors ago. This time, they have merchandise on the shelves at their Surrey compound now, Skulsky said, and a marketing campaign associated with the new look gets unveiled in the Lower Mainland next week.

Braley and Skulsky pushed all their chips into the middle of the table with the coaching return of Wally Buono. You get the feeling they can’t wait to see how the paying customer responds to the Lions’ new fashion sense.

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.