Disney helps redesign ASU’s Sparky the Sun Devil mascot

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sparky2Disney has teamed up with ASU to develop a new character design for Sparky the Sun Devil, an iconic university mascot created by a Disney artist in 1946.

A new mascot costume will debut at April’s spring football game, but some apparel and merchandise bearing the new Disney character is reportedly already available at Sparky’s Stadium Shop, Sun Devil Campus Stores and a few other outlets.

The “old” Sparky will still be used as the official image for ASU and on merchandise and clothing. The new design will come to life on the field as well as in comic books, children’s literature and animated productions geared toward engaging young ASU fans.

The official announcement is below:

ASU expands relationship with Disney through InnovationSpace program and other initiatives

Arizona State University, one of the nation’s most innovative universities, has collaborated with The Walt Disney Company to develop unique product and design initiatives through its InnovationSpace program, as well as a new illustrated character design of ASU’s beloved mascot Sparky the Sun Devil created by Disney artists.

The newly designed mascot will now be used in a variety of applications that appeal to younger audiences, including comic books, children’s books and animated productions. Throughout the process, ASU students have learned from and collaborated with some of Disney’s best artists, illustrators, designers and business executives. Additionally, students in the School of Design will also have the opportunity to develop future style guides for ASU-licensed apparel and merchandise that feature Sparky.

The new mascot costume will make its first appearance at the spring football game in April 2013, and its first regular season appearance at the start of fall football. Apparel and merchandise bearing the new Sparky character is available now at a limited number of retail outlets, including Sparky’s Stadium Shop and the Sun Devil Campus Stores.

ASU alum Stephen Teglas, ’89, vice president of licensing at Disney Consumer Products (DCP), was instrumental in ensuring the relationship with InnovationSpace is a success. An avid Sun Devil, Teglas has also led the charge in these new initiatives with DCP.

“Our involvement with InnovationSpace has been very productive,” Teglas said. “We are very impressed with the caliber of the students, the faculty and the body of work we’re seeing.”

Disney has a longstanding connection to ASU that goes back to 1946 when Berk Anthony, a Disney artist returning from military service in World War II, drew the iconic image of Sparky the Sun Devil. This iconic Sparky trademark has remained the same since 1946.

The university will continue to use the iconic mark on apparel and merchandise, banners, marketing materials, facilities and in numerous other applications as it has in the past. The university will use the new illustrated character as the basis for an update to its mascot costume, which is standard practice in collegiate and professional sports. The costume has been updated in appearance many times over the years to appeal to contemporary audiences.

The relationship between ASU and Disney has continued to expand over the years, and in 2010 faculty and students from ASU’s InnovationSpace program began working with Disney Consumer Products to develop a line of unique products. InnovationSpace is an entrepreneurial joint venture among the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the W. P. Carey School of Business. InnovationSpace teaches students how to develop products that create market value while serving real societal needs and minimizing impacts on the environment.

“We seek to create products that are progressive, possible and profitable,” said Prasad Boradkar, associate professor in the School of Design and director of InnovationSpace. “At the same time, they must have a meaningful impact on the daily lives of ordinary people.”

According to Boradkar, from their factory production to their disposal, consumer products can have enormous impacts on the environment. As a result, InnovationSpace is committed to exploring new methodologies for sustainable product innovation.


Why are ASU and Disney working together?
The Walt Disney Company has set the standard for imagination the world over and understands how to reach and engage multiple audiences. ASU, in turn, is known for innovation and a student-centered experience, so it brings to Disney opportunities to work with, and contribute to the development of, some of the brightest young minds through outstanding programs like InnovationSpace.

When did ASU begin working with Disney?
The connection with Disney goes back to 1946 when Berk Anthony, a Disney artist returning from military service in World War II, drew the iconic image of Sparky the Sun Devil. In July 2009, ASU and Disney crossed paths again as founding members of The Sustainability Consortium, an organization that is reducing the environmental and social impacts associated with global consumption. About two years ago, ASU approached Disney about exploring options to increase engagement with younger audiences. In 2012, Sun Devil Athletics began working with Disney on improved service.

Who at ASU has been involved in this effort?
Members of the University Brand Council, an organization that represents trademark management, university business services, Sun Devil athletics and public affairs, have been working on increasing engagement with younger audiences. Faculty and students from InnovationSpace, which is a joint project between the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts, the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, have worked with Disney on toys for children and will be working on upcoming design guides for ASU-licensed apparel and merchandise. The relationship with Disney on sustainability has been led by ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

What are you planning to do with the contemporary Sparky?
We will use the new character in apparel and merchandise that is primarily targeted at younger audiences. We will also plan to use him in children’s books, animated films and other vehicles to inspire young children to go to college, pursue fitness and healthy lifestyle choices, and so on.

What are you going to do with the Sparky trademark?
We will continue to use the iconic Sparky image as a trademark and offer it on a full line of apparel and merchandise. We will use it in facilities, on banners, in advertising, on license plates and in many other ways we have used it in the past.

When you announced the rebranding with Nike two years ago you said it was to streamline ASU’s look (colors, marks, uniforms, etc.). Doesn’t this complicate things even more with another trademark/mark?
The new contemporary character will not be used as a trademark. It is a way for ASU to engage and develop affinity with younger audiences. Because it can take on many poses, it will open up opportunities to communicate through new channels, such as children’s books and animated videos. It will also give us the opportunity to market specialty lines of apparel and merchandise, which is very common (and profitable) for major brands.

Why target the younger audience? Will you target other audiences at a later date?
The new character is a brand extension that will help us inspire children to go to college (and hopefully choose ASU when they do). Because it is drawn in a somewhat softer and contemporary style, we expect it to be more approachable for younger audiences than the 1946 trademark.

How much did this cost the University and if it did cost where did the money come from?
There was no exchange of cash between Disney and ASU for character development or the work performed by InnovationSpace. Costs of the announcement event will be covered by ASU’s trademark licensing partner, CLC.

What is Disney’s stake in this? Does it get a percentage of merchandise sold?
Disney has transferred all rights and royalties related to the new character to the university. In the event ASU and Disney produce any co-branded merchandise bearing university and Disney trademarks, each entity will receive a proportionate share of the royalties.

How was research on the new character done?
We conducted focus groups with various university constituent groups across a range of demographics including age.

When did you begin this process?
About two years ago.

Is there anything else in the pipeline for the future in terms of branding, uniforms, logos, trademark designs, etc.?
The university is always evaluating options to keep its brand image fresh and relevant to its multiple constituent groups.

Are there any other teams that have multiple versions of their mascot? Do you think it will be confusing to have both a character and a trademark?
Having variations or multiple mascots is standard practice across collegiate and professional sports. Because one will be used as a character and the other will be used as a trademark, we do not expect confusion between the two.

Will kids apparel be available with the original Sparky on it?

When will apparel with the new character be available? Will there be enough supply of different items when it is available?
Merchandise is currently available at a limited selection of outlets, including Sun Devil Campus Stores and Sparky’s Stadium Shop.

Why did you change the mascot costume?
Since 1946 ASU has created more than a dozen versions of the Sparky costume, and the current costume was due for a refresh. The new costume embodies and reflects the identity and character of the original trademark in an updated, contemporary form that is relevant to multiple audiences.

Who created the Sparky costume?
FiberWorks, an industry leader in mascot costume development, brought the Disney vision for Sparky to life in the form of the new costume. Based in New River, Arizona Donna Nagel and Joe Turnbough have produced costumes and props for theme parks and sports teams around the world. Locally FiberWorks has worked on the Phoenix Suns Gorilla, the Arizona Cardinals’ Big Red, the Diamondbacks’ Baxter as well as mascots for the Coyotes and Phoenix Mercury. Other FiberWorks mascots include the St. Louis Cardinals’ Fred Bird, the University of Missouri’s Truman Tiger, the Baltimore Ravens’ Poe, the Tennessee Titans T-Rac, the Houston Rockets’ Clutch and the Indianapolis Colts’ Blue.

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About the author


Jayson Peters

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Post a comment...
  • OMG! Bring the old Sparky back! This one looks like a joke. I may have to become a Wildcat fan now.

  • What re-design? This is a ripoff. ASU paid for this? It’s Guy Fawkes. The Anarchists are taking over Sun Devil stadium!

  • You’ve GOT to be kidding me! As Charles Barkley would say, that’s turrible! Don’t “re-imagine” history. The original artist who designed Sparky, Bert Anthony, was an EX-Disney artist who HATED Walt and gave Sparky Walt’s moustache and likeness.

  • Wow, how did they decide that mascot was a good idea? Looks more like a mascot for a BDSM softball team.

  • No just no…. It’s scary, and not in a good way. First they screw with the pitchfork now they’re screwing with Sparky. What is the world coming to.

  • This is just disappointing, unless you…uh…of course think it’s “fabulous!” …not that there’s anything wrong with that…