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The YMCA's previous logo, with a triangle and bent bar, dates back to 1967.
The YMCA's previous logo, with a triangle and bent bar, dates back to 1967.

YMCA rebranding touts focus beyond sports

Posted online
A lot has changed since the Young Men Christian’s Association’s founding in 1844, when the YMCA worked to keep young men off the streets of London.

Today, the YMCA of the USA has evolved into an entity with a diverse array of programs focused on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

A new logo unveiled July 12 – the previous logo was 43 years old – is designed to dispel the public’s misperception of the Y as little more than a place to exercise, said Brad Toft, CEO of the Ozarks Regional YMCA.

“National research shows that people view the Y as the swim and gym, a place where they can come and exercise … not that that’s bad, but that’s not truly what we do,” Toft said.

A quick review of the program schedule at the Downtown Y alone shows myriad swimming and wellness program, but there are also youth and adult visual, literary and performing arts programs, as well as specialized teen programs including Earth Service Corps and Youth in Government and a kaleidoscope of camp and child care options and homework assistance.

“It’s not just a place for the child to be while parents are at work,” Toft said. “We have a curriculum that is designed to enhance the child, whether that’s helping them with homework or teaching them to live a healthy lifestyle.”

Like the previous logo, the new version is built around the letter “y”, but instead of black and red, it comes with multiple color options and a contemporary feel aimed at communicating vibrancy,
diversity and the organization’s commitment to personal and social progress.

“For 160 years, we’ve focused on changing lives for the better. Our commitment to building greater awareness for the important work we do will enable us to expand our efforts and strengthen
communities across the country,” said YMCA of the USA CEO Neil Nicoll, in a news release.

The change in brand strategy isn’t going to happen overnight, but it will happen more quickly in the Ozarks than in other regions, where adaptation may take as long as five years.

“We signed up to be an early adopter of the strategy,” Toft said. “We will have 100 percent of the new branding by the end of the year next year.”

Julie Eaton, the regional Y’s director of marketing, said the public should expect a gradual roll-out of newly branded materials, including stationery, signage and a redesigned Web site.

Y officials don’t know yet how much they’ll be spending for the rebranding effort. Nationally, bids for sign replacement are being solicited, but that work may be awarded locally depending on what the bids reveal.

Eaton said she doesn’t expect a dramatic shift in the way the Y gets its message out to the community.

The nonprofit historically has relied on media partners for public-service advertisements and segments such as “For Your Life,” which airs during KSFX’s 9 p.m. news on Wednesdays.

Those partnerships are crucial for nonprofits, said Chris Whitehead, director of resource development at Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield, which promotes health, social, educational, vocational and character development in children and youth. Programs for baseball, flag football and basketball are among the club’s efforts, which also include after-school and summertime care and a scholarship program.

“Luckily for us, we’re in Springfield — a very generous town,” said Whitehead, who works with members of the Boys & Girls Clubs’ marketing committee – made up of local media representatives –  to spread the word about the clubs’ programs and mission.

“Really, I think I’ve been turned down maybe twice, and I’m talking about some pretty good campaigns, some spots in prime time,” he added.

Barbara Cowherd, associate athletic director at Drury University, said she’s found success with e-mail blasts. Drury is gearing up for the Oct. 30 opening of its $12 million O’Reilly Family Event Center.

“We do a lot of e-mail — and obviously a lot of people don’t like to give out their e-mail address — but that’s one of the easiest ways to get information to people on a short-term turnaround without a whole lot of the work that goes into mailings,” Cowherd said.

Regardless of delivery method, Toft said he hopes the new logo and branding strategy help the community understand the larger scope of what the Y does.

“We want people to understand what we do, not just based on old paradigms,” he said.[[In-content Ad]]

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