Special Collections: Bronco Branding

“Fight Broncos, celebrate the orange and blue!” The first line of the Boise State fight song highlights the importance of the colors and mascot to the identity of the Boise State University. Blue and orange have always been a key part of school history and tradition and so has the school’s mascot, Buster Bronco. The colors and mascot were picked by the school’s basketball team in the very first school year in 1932. Preston Hale, a student athlete at the time recounts:
We checked the colors of all the schools in southern Idaho and eastern Oregon before we picked blue and orange…We didn’t want to double up on another school, and there was no other school with those colors. The same goes for [choosing] the mascot. There were a few schools along the Pacific Coast with the bronco as their mascot, but none [in the region] outside of California. 
In 1935 Boise Junior College students proudly showed their support for the Broncos with a wood and paper horse, nearly twenty feet high. The bronco was named Elmer, after Elmer Fox, one of the two yell leaders that built him. Elmer was paraded through downtown Boise during homecoming week and was left at city hall overnight. The tradition continued for at least another year when students made another bronco that was again paraded downtown. In 1936 the tradition expanded to a burning of the bronco the night before the big game. “Each year, ‘Elmer,’ symbol of Bronc prowess, is cremated and from his ashes rises the spirit of new conquests and victories.”

Idaho Statesman Photo. November 21, 1935. BJC students
parade Elmer, an enormous bronco through downtown Boise.

For many years Boise Junior College never had an official bronco logo. Students often created their own bronco character for publications and promotions. In 1955 a student organization created an insignia that caught on and was used widely for both athletic and academic purposes.

Insignia created by the Pi Sigma Sigma service organization.
See the BJC Roundup, October 4, 1955, page 1.

When the school entered the Idaho state system as a four year university, additional attention was given to the branding of the school’s colors, mascot, and logos. A new “BSU” logo appeared on most academic and athletic items around campus. The Athletic Department also created its own unique mascot which was only used for athletic publications.  All of these new symbols of Boise State University made perfect branding symbols for the university bookstore.

Before the 1970s, most Boise State merchandise was either created by students and staff, or only used the Boise State seal as a symbol for the university. When the Student Union expanded into its current location, the bookstore was added to in both size and capacity. For decades the students bought their text books out of the basement of the Administration Building. In 1967, when the bookstore moved into the new Student Union, the bookstore also drastically expanded its Boise State University merchandise, for sale to both students and the public.

Students posing with Bronco merchandise. University Archives photo AR 013897.

From then on, the bookstore has continued to sell t-shirts, hats, bags, and other merchandise to promote the university and help students and supporters show school spirit. Boise State University has continued to establish its brands and marks for its unique identity – including the Blue Turf -- one of the most recognizable sports complexes in the country.

Today the Boise State brand receives the full attention of the University Administration. “The Office of Trademark Licensing and Enforcement serves the University by promoting and protecting its name, marks, colors, brands, and all identifiable properties.”  The university uses most of the revenue generated from selling merchandise for student scholarships. In 2011, the Boise State bookstores raised approximately $2 million for the general scholarship fund.

To view historic examples of Boise State Broncos click here.

To read more about the Office of Trademark Licensing and Enforcement click here.

Click here to view Bronco merchandise.

Jim Duran,
Special Collections

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