When Advertising Can Make You a Mockery

Those of you who live outside of Idaho may not quite understand the college football environment in the state, so let me give you a quick recap.

Boise State hates the University of Idaho (long story). The University of Idaho hates Boise State with the passion of hell fire. Boise State has had one of the winningest football programs in the country since about the year 2000. Idaho has had one of the worst football programs in the country since the same time.

Let me also preface this opinion with the fact that I am a Boise State alum, although I would really like to see 2 great football teams in the State of Idaho. However, we have here a great case study on how not to use advertising.

The Idaho Vandals recently put out a poster of their football team that is… interesting, to say the least. It features the entire football team with their shirts off, oiled up muscles, and the word “Toughness” above them.

Idaho Vandal Poster (Cover your eyes!)

However, the case study lies in what the intention was behind the poster. As you know, most teams try to come up with some slogan every year. Boise State has run through a few like “Leave no Doubt”, “Amp it Up”, and one that I created that they stole – “Keep it Rollin'”. It gets the team and the fan base motivated.

However, creating a poster that says “Toughness” above a team that has gone 10-37 in the last 4 seasons is simply an oxymoron. At the very least, the goal of motivating the team and the fan base has had the opposite effect. They are getting plenty of buzz, but for all of the wrong reasons. They have been scoffed at on talk radio, in blogs (and here and here), and even some coverage on GayWired.com.

A lot of companies take this same approach. They think by simply creating a catchy new tagline, consumers will forget all of the horrible experiences they have had in the past (i.e. Qwest’s Spirit of Service). This is what you call putting lipstick on the pig. Sorry my oily friends, but the burger has to look like the picture.

The reality is that the University of Idaho Vandals need to earn the word “Toughness” by giving their fans a great experience (a single winning season would be a start). In the meantime, maybe a tagline like “We’re not Going to Take it Anymore” or “One Step at a Time” would be more appropriate.

And for heaven’s sake, put your shirts on!

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5 thoughts on “When Advertising Can Make You a Mockery

  1. So do you look this good with your shirt off pretty boy? I’m sure anyone of these guys in this picture would throw you around like a rag doll. Compared to the average American male, and certainly you, they are tough.

  2. Joe,

    While I can appreciate your passion for your team, you have completely missed the point of my post. This is not about who looks better with their shirt off or who is stronger than who. However, if they truly were a team that had a reputation of being tough, would they need rabid fans like yourself out there defending them? My guess is no.

    No, my tough talking friend, this article is about marketing. At its core, that is what your alma matter is trying to do – market the toughness of the team. However, the burger doesn’t look like the picture, if you will. Start with a word or tagline that you can own. “Passion”, “Heart”, maybe even “Courage”, but definitely not “Toughness”. The “courage” to keep clawing your way to a winning season despite set backs in previous years might resonate louder with fan or foe.

    This, however, was not meant to be a crack on the U of I. Like I said in the post, I would love to see 2 good football teams in the state of Idaho. I would love to see Idaho win every game except 1, of course. But you have to deal with reality, my friend.

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