My Quest for the Perfect GameDay Sign

ESPN College GameDay is coming to Eugene on Saturday. Because we can’t all wave the Washington State flag, it is my personal mission to make a really funny/creative/smart sign to wave in the background; if I’m lucky, I’ll be shown on TV or my mom will mention me in her Facebook status.

Right now, I don’t have a ton of great ideas. I’ve considered the typical “spell ESPN vertically with a word for each letter” thing, but I can’t think of anything for the “N.” (And all I’ve got for E, S and P is “every Stanford player” or “each Stanford player.” Not exactly national television material.)

Of course, Stanford’s quarterback, Andrew Luck, has a last name that rhymes with “Duck” which could open up a lot of possibilities for me. I’ve thought about

Duck > Luck

or some variation thereof, but I’m not totally settled on it.

If all else fails, I’m just taking a sign that reads “A Tree is Not a Mascot,” because a tree and a singular noun (Cardinal) simply do not make a good mascot combo.

I’ve already heard of one idea that is utterly hilarious but slightly inappropriate. I’m keeping it G-rated here, but I will say that it has something to do with the nickname students and fans have recently given to our head coach, Chip Kelly (you can see it in this Twitter status that I found by Googling the phrase).

So with that, my search continues. Any (appropriate) suggestions?

Goodbye, Best Summer Ever

Most college students have already purchased new books, started new classes and heck, maybe even taken a midterm. But because we’re on the quarter system (I’ll spare you the details), classes at the University of Oregon begin tomorrow. It didn’t even hit me until I was out for a run this afternoon that today is the last day of summer vacation.

I can say with certainty that this was the best summer of my life. Why? Because I…

  • Completed the most amazing internship in the most amazing city. I worked in New York City and interned at Rodale publishing, specifically with Bicycling magazine, one of Rodale’s titles. I had the chance to do so much fun work and apply my PR skills in a real work setting. (You can read more about my summer here and here.)
  • Met my baseball-announcing hero, Jon Miller, in a spontaneous encounter on the streets of Manhattan. Got his autograph.
  • Saw a game at Fenway Park with my family on a beautiful Boston evening.
  • Successfully learned how to navigate the New York City subway system.
  • Secured season tickets to Oregon Ducks football games.

Of course, a lot more happened than that, but those were the highlights.

It’s my goal to follow up the best summer ever with the best school year ever. Bright and early tomorrow, I’ll be settling into my new class schedule and starting a new routine. It’s going to busy, but I’m determined to not let anything slip through the cracks (including this blog).

ESPN’s College GameDay is actually helping me make this a great year, as they announced this morning that they’ll be broadcasting from Eugene on Saturday and featuring Oregon v. Stanford as their game of the week.

Duck fans try to get their signs shown TV during GameDay's trip to Eugene last year.

I’m already brainstorming poster ideas, and you can bet I’ll be there, decked out in my green and yellow. Can’t think of a better way to spend the first weekend of what I plan to make the best school year ever.

What College Football Taught Me About PR

This season, I grew to truly love college football.  Now that it’s over, I present some of the lessons college football taught me about public relations.

1) You’ll have to make unpopular choices…but you can still come out on top.

Several students, myself included, were upset when the University of Oregon Athletic Department pulled the “I Love My Ducks” video from YouTube (it’s since been re-posted) and refused to support it because of its unauthorized inclusion of our Duck mascot, which is licensed by Disney and used by the department with Disney’s special permission.

But during an Allen Hall Public Relations meeting, we discussed the video and began seeing things from the department’s point of view.  As future PR professionals, we’ll face similar decisions: make the unpopular choice or break the rules.  The athletic department made the unpopular choice, but still made it up to their fans.

An edited version of the video (which showed past game highlights instead of the Duck) was shown during the Oregon v. Oregon State game.  It may not have been the original, but it served its purpose: The entire student section was ecstatic when it was played.

The original video:

The Civil War version:

2) It’s important to know whom you’re working with.

In order for efficient, quality work to be produced, it’s important to understand a client’s wants and needs.  Not doing so reflects poorly on you and any agency or company you represent.  ESPN College GameDay analyst Lee Corso probably wishes he had remembered that lesson when he attempted to shake hands with a blind boy.  The boy, Jake Olson, had been an inspirational figure for the USC football team: he was a huge USC fan and they embraced him as he battled cancer that forced him to lose his eyesight.  Corso probably shakes dozens of hands a day, but he forgot that this one was different.  Without knowing your clients and fully understanding the work you’re expected to do, you risk embarrassing gaffes.

3) Social media makes anything possible.

The aforementioned ESPN College GameDay is known for the creative posters fans wave behind the set during its broadcasts.  In November, I replied to a tweet sent via the show’s Twitter account, which asked what signs they’d see during their broadcast from the Florida v. Florida State game.  My idea was a sign reading, “Tim Tebow, will you marry me?”  Several minutes later, I saw this reply:

“Now THAT would be original” -Des (Desmond Howard, a GameDay analyst and former Heisman trophy winner)

That interaction is not really a big deal, but it reminded me that Twitter remains a valuable resource for public relations practitioners who can use it to communicate with prospective clients or their clients’ customers.  With Twitter, the possibilities are endless, as long as you can come up with a creative approach to using it effectively.

Those are my three big lessons.  What did you learned from college football this season?

Preparing for War

After a weekend full of turkey, pumpkin pie and multiple viewings of the “I Love My Ducks” video, I was ready to get back on campus and be a part of the Civil War excitement.  After spending the weekend with my father, an Oregon State graduate, it is nice to be back in a less hostile environment.

It seems like everyone and everything on campus is thankful for “I Love My Ducks.”  Take, for example, the UO Career Center, the Duck Store, and UO Student Services.  I’m sure they’re glad that the video dropped advertising slogans right into their laps.  Check out the ads they published on the back page of the Oregon Daily Emerald today:

The hype is building all over campus as we prepare for the Civil War.  Tomorrow, free “Beat OSU” t-shirts are being distributed.  ESPN will be here on Thursday (and hoping that, by the grace of God and the power of Twitter, I get to meet Chris Fowler).  By Friday, well, I don’t want to jinx anything, but I hope to be preparing for a Christmas break trip to Pasadena.

But whether or not we win, we still love our Ducks.