Director of trademark licensing Matthew Bridges and senior associate athletics director Eric Nichols decided Cocky needed an upgrade. We're not talking the Cocky you see at sporting events parading up and down the sidelines and mingling with fans — rather, we're talking about the cartoon version of Cocky used for marketing purposes.
According to Nichols, the primary issue with the cartoon was that it was "very limiting to handle different emotional poses."
"We felt it was a little too child-oriented, and we wanted to give Cocky an illustration that matched his personality," Nichols said.
The next step was trying to figure out who Nichols and Bridges would task with such a project. That decision ended up being relatively easy one.
"It was definitely Kev or bust," Nichols said.
Former USC graduate Kev Roché was tabbed to take on the project. Roché is a freelance illustrator who has worked with ESPN, focusing on the SVP and Russillo show, Sunday Night Baseball and other baseball programming.
"Kev's been on our radar for some time," Bridges said. "His designs really lent itself to something that would show emotion and really capture Cocky's essence."
According to Roché, being chosen for the project "seemed like a natural fit," since he was a South Carolina graduate and enjoyed the school as much as he did.
"I hopped on a phone call with them," Roché said. "Kind of discussed some things of what they were thinking, and I guess my ideas to go along with the project, and then just took off from there."
The final outcome of the design was perfect and exactly what they was looking for, according to Nichols.
"He took it and ran with it and knocked it out of the park, first time," Bridges said.
Roché began the project by consulting with a former Cocky to make sure he did the mascot justice.
"We got on a Zoom group call when the project first started; had a former Cocky on there to make sure I got all the details, right" Roshé said. "Beak flap, big feet — all that kind of stuff."
After coming up with nine poses for the cartoon, Roché, Nichols and Bridges were able to dwindle them down to six, according to Roché. While there might only be six poses for now, the future might bring more "sports-specific caricatures," such as poses with a football or a golf club, Nichols said.
Despite the plethora of poses he came up with, Roché said his favorite part of the illustration had to be the "big eyebrows" he gave him.
"I guess that might be the biggest difference," Roché said. "Because I draw the raised eyebrows in all my, kind of, cartoons."
Roché said he had always wanted to work with USC in some official capacity but didn't expect his first opportunity to come with this project.
"It's an important mascot," Roché said. "For them to trust me enough to be like, 'Yeah, go draw Cocky; kind of, put your own stamp on it,' that was pretty cool."
Roché said at the end of the day, he would have taken any mascot redesign project opportunity but to be able to do it for the the team he grew up watching and the school he attended meant more.
"It's always nice to work with a fan who also has the university close at heart, that he could tell it came out in his design," Bridges said.
As for the marketing purposes of the cartoon, the first design appeared on a GamecockClub exclusive shirt in August, and the rest will be rolled out in the future.
"This is something we see still coexisting with the previous [design]," Bridges said. "It's just adding another mark that our licensers are welcome to use, and we hope that the university is able to use it as well, through their marketing efforts."