The name’s Gaels, Queen’s Gaels

Athletics and Recreation to drop Golden as part of rebranding campaign

Football’s Jay Oduwole (centre)
Football’s Jay Oduwole (centre)

As part of the Department of Athletics and Recreation’s large-scale rebranding effort, Queen’s sports teams gained new uniforms and lost a description.

From now on, teams will be known only as the Queen’s Gaels. The department will also sport a new logo, a stylized Q with Queen’s written underneath in place of the former Golden Gaels lettering, and will change their website in the near future from to

Director of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin said the change is more a shift in promotional focus than a dismissal of “golden.” “We have not eliminated ‘Golden Gaels’ from our repertoire,” she said. “What we have chosen to do is highlight ‘Queen’s’ and ‘Gaels’. We’re spending much more promotion and attention on those two words.”

Dal Cin said playing up the school’s name allows the department to highlight the teams’ connections to the university.

Dal Cin said isolating “Gaels” from “Golden” allows the department to develop deeper connections with students that aren’t athletes and also emphasizes the university’s Scottish heritage.

“With Gaels, two things: one, we’re trying to connect to the entire student body, we’re all Gaels, and the second thing is, when we did our research, there was a great deal of confusion of how ‘golden’ applied to a Scottish warrior,” she said.

The Golden Gaels name was first coined by Kingston Whig-Standard reporter Cliff Bowering in 1947 after the football team lost 52-3 to Western. Bowering based the name on the new golden uniforms coach Frank Tindall had instituted. The name caught on and became the primary moniker for all Queen’s teams, replacing “The Tricolour.”

But Dal Cin said the department isn’t trying to get rid of the “golden” influence entirely.

“We have not dropped the name ‘Golden Gaels,’” she said. “As a matter of fact, we feel we’re bringing more predominance to ‘Golden Gaels’, because for the first time, all of our home teams will be playing in gold, so logically, they are the golden Gaels. I think that’s where some of the confusion is coming in. I think we’re actually doing more service to the name now with the strategy we’ve taken to bring the brand to life.”

Brad Greenwood, manager of the department’s marketing, communication and events group, said the department underwent an extensive consultation process spanning several years on their rebranding efforts. The process included alumni, coaches, faculty, recreation participants, department staff and management, and involved both in-person focus groups and online respondents. Greenwood said more than 500 people participated in the process, which began in 2006 under former Chair of Athletics and Recreation John McFarlane.

He said the respondents were almost unified in what they wanted to see.

“The results were very surprisingly similar,” he said. “Virtually 99 per cent wanted strong, simple, bold, all of the things that we talked about throughout.”

Part of the rebranding effort involved consulting a Toronto-based creative design firm, Karacters Design Group. Greenwood said Karacters’ distance from personal ties to the brand was vital to

the process.

“We were all very close to the former mark and now the new mark,” he said. “We needed that objectivity to come in and look at the process, look at it without all the preconceived notions around it.”

Greenwood said the department was thrilled with the final logo Karacters produced.

“It represents all that we were after,” he said.

The new uniforms are manufactured by adidas Canada under a new partnership with Queen’s Athletics and Recreation, replacing the old Russell Athletic uniforms.

Dal Cin said adidas’ prominence in the sports world will benefit Queen’s.

“To be aligned with one of the top two athletic apparel companies in the world is tremendous,” she said. “We really bring together two very strong brands, the university’s brand and the adidas brand, and that can be a very

powerful image.”

Dal Cin said another advantage of the deal with adidas is it eliminates some of the outsourcing and ethical concerns various campus groups, including Queen’s No Sweat, had raised about the Russell uniforms, which were partly produced in Third World countries.

“Another great thing that just happens to be a byproduct of this is the fact that all of our uniforms and a large majority of our sport apparel pieces will be manufactured in Canada,” she said. “That’s an additional benefit that really speaks to some of the concerns that have been raised on campus.”

Not everyone likes the changes, though. Former Queen’s football star and current TSN analyst Jock Climie told the Journal in an e-mail he isn’t happy the University chose to drop the “Golden.”

“I’m very disappointed by the decision,” he said. “Some marketing consultant says that a 60-year tradition doesn’t make sense and bang[,]it’s gone? Why does everything have to be about marketing and branding?”

Climie said Queen’s should have kept the full name, despite it being an unusual one.

“Change for the sake of change has never made any sense to me,” he said. “There are some quirky things that should just be allowed to stay quirky.”

The bright uniforms and nickname made the teams immediately identifiable, Climie said.

“I had many CFL teammates laugh when they saw Queen’s uniforms,” he said. “But I guarantee none of them will ever fail to recognize a Queen’s football team on TV again. The name “Golden Gaels” was also unique and traditional. There is no good reason to have changed it.”

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