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How We Play
July 25, 2011
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By Wendell Barnhouse | wendell@big12sports.com
Big12Sports.com Correspondent


Unless you've spent the last few decades in a tropical rain forest or at an Antarctic ice station, you've been exposed to the creative work of GSD&M, a company that specializes in advertising, graphic design, marketing, and media consulting services.

GSD&M has mounted memorable campaigns for Southwest Airlines, the PGA Tour, the United States Air Force, AT&T, Walmart and Hallmark. The company's most recent work debuted Monday night when the Big 12 Conference rolled out its new branding and imaging campaign.

The strategy focuses on the theme "How We Play." That highlights the Conference's core purpose while centering on three features of the league that make it unique - fierce rivalries, heartland values and one true champion.

"'How We Play' will showcase the strengths and uniqueness of Big 12 membership as we move forward into our bright and stable future," said Commissioner Dan Beebe. "It will allow us to continue our place as one of the nation's premier intercollegiate athletic conferences."

The kickoff of the marketing strategy was announced at the end of the first day of the Big 12's two-day football media days that allow the media to meet with coaches and players to preview the 2011 season.

"We're excited about this campaign and being involved with the Big 12," said Jeff Orth, Account Director for GSD&M, which is based in Austin. "All the feedback we've received from around the conference has been positive and we like when that happens. Everyone in the Conference is unified behind the message."

That message was conceived over the past year. GSD&M conducted interviews with hundreds of people associated with the Big 12 - presidents, athletic directors, coaches, fans and members of the media. While "How We Play" will be the tag line of the branding initiative, there were several core values derived from the interview process that helped GSD&M crystallize the concept.

* While other conferences are expanding membership, the Big 12 has contracted to 10 teams. That makes it unique.

* The 10-team league makes it possible to play round-robin schedules in football and basketball. That means a "true champion" will be decided on the field. "There won't be any 'what ifs' or 'yeah, buts,'" Orth said.

* The round-robin schedule will enhance rivalries because all the schools will play each other every year. "The idea is that we battle each other on Saturday but we're friends on Sunday," Orth said.

A value system that fits the people who live in the Conference's five-state foot print and includes integrity, character, fairness and hard work.

Orth said that the branding and imaging campaign will have three prongs - television ads, print ads and a digital (online) component. Four-to-five television spots are being prepared and will be debuted during football season. GSD&M will enhance the Big 12's current Facebook page by adding user applications that will allow Conference fans to interact.

"With the Big 12 basically headed into a new era, this is an exciting time," Orth said. "Being able to go public with the details of the campaign (at Monday night's reception) gives the Conference a chance to get its message out there and make a good first impression."

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