*The following is an excerpt from the book Brands Win Championships*
I started writing this book right after college, inspired by the love I had for my university and my utter frustration in its lack of brand awareness at the time. It was at that time that I went on one of the school’s more popular message boards, a personal favorite of mine, stepped onto my soap box, and delivered what I considered to be a pretty epic, Jerry Maguire-like call to arms. I was twenty-three…and slightly naïve.
In that cry for help, I proposed a slew of high-level strategies to turn the athletic department’s brand around, along with micro-level tactics that would bring those strategies to life. One of the tactics was what I called “Beaver Friday,” a day in which all Beaver fans would wear their letters, raise their flags, and transform their Hondas into logo-covered mobile billboards. The thought process and philosophy behind Beaver Fridays holds up today. It was the tail-end of football season at the time, and I had Saturday caravans on the brain. I chose Friday for that exact reason. The easiest way to stand apart from a crowd is to literally move away from the pack and into your own wide open space. During football season, Saturday is the day everyone puts their flags up and their replica jerseys on. It’s crowded. That’s the case in just about every state, which means the idea of fans wearing gear on Saturday is expected, and that expectation leads to white noise—white noise in which schools become lost amongst a sea of other like-minded universities.
I thought to myself, What if the same number of OSU fans who wore their gear on Saturdays wore their letters on Fridays instead? What if we branded it “Beaver Friday” to make it stick and give fans something to rally around? People would take notice. OSU would be the primary school represented on the streets of Oregon each Friday. If the competition was focused on Saturday, we’d pick another day and own it. If all people saw on Fridays in Oregon was OSU orange, perceptions regarding the school’s popularity would start to change for the better.
From that one post, and by consistently ringing the bell each week on the message board, suddenly people started to rally behind the idea. The concept caught on to a point where one fan had actually asked the Oregon State Athletic Director about Beaver Fridays during a formal press conference. It was starting to stick. If an idea like this, born from a single message board post and a wide-eyed twenty-three-year-old, can succeed, imagine what your team of professionals can come up with and accomplish. Just remember: sometimes, you have to zig while your competition zags.