Good Bull Hunting: Thank you for talking with us, let’s get straight to it. Can you give us some idea of what led to the decision to create this 12 seat memorial representation?
Well, given the loss of the marketing machine known as Johnny Football and the resurgence of the Seattle Seahawks' use of the 12th Man trademark, Texas A&M was interested in more permanently establishing themselves out in the market. We were hired to develop and implement strategies to accomplish that, and with the upcoming complete renovation of iconic Kyle Field, we thought the best idea would be to make a statement right there.
In the end the idea for the 12 empty seats sort of evolved organically from all of these discussions. We were just hoping to finally find a way to let people know that Kyle Field was The Home Of The 12th Man.
GBH: In your words, what exactly were these 12 empty seats meant to represent?
Well let me just start right off by saying that this was not a memorial. Yes, the initial idea came from paying tribute to the 12 students who died in the 1999 Bonfire collapse. And yes, there were some interviews given which alluded to capitalizing on that tragedy through increased TV exposure. But capitalize is a bit of a buzz word these days and we’re trying to distance ourselves from it.
Listen, it’s all about strengthening the brand. By leaving those seats empty at every game we had the opportunity to present our image, increase our market presence, and enhance ownership of the 12th Man brand. At the same time that we broadened our message and increased our bandwidth, we created mass appeal by demonstrating the perception versus the reality of our traditions. Using a proactive strategy of leveraging the brand, we could evolve the message, create value, and increase our visibility and footprint while we stay on message moving forward. Synergy.
Of course it would have also been something of a tribute to Aggies who have given their lives for their country, or who died tragically in the 1999 Bonfire collapse. And others.
It wasn't a memorial though.
GBH: Are there any plans for additional ways to "strengthen the brand"?
Oh wow, where to begin? As soon as we struck gold with this idea, it seemed like the ideas for cross-promotions and product tie-ins just wouldn’t stop!
First we thought of ways to promote through the game day experience. Why are we selling footlongs instead of Sully’s 12"? As soon as we can work through some issues with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission we’ll be offering the Twelfth Man 12-Pack of Beers. Hell, if Coach Fran were still around I could get all kinds of mileage out of Dozen Egg Night, am I right?
We felt like some opportunities had been missed in the past and we were determined not to let that happen again. The SEC move has been good overall for the A&M brand, but I can only imagine what possibilities were out there for cross-promotion with the Big XII. I actually have some feelers out right now to see if they still might be interested.
But we are also looking into ways to promote the brand from right there on the field. We heard the student reaction to the idea of a female cheerleader, but then we thought, what about twelve cheerleaders? At the very least they need to talk to me about the number of Yell Leaders. Five? What’s five? That’s not even a thing.
Now I’m admittedly not a real sports guy, but I’ve also been trying to contact Kevin Sumlin about the possibility of having the team go 12-0 this season. Can you imagine the draw that would get to our brand? Failing that, I think I might actually prefer they go 0-12 – we could get the same exposure for the brand but without a bowl game coming along and ruining everything.
The sky’s the limit at this point. We’re even discussing the idea of cross-promoting with a celebrity sponsor. I mean look at what Dennis Rodman has done for North Korea these days!
GBH: In closing, how do you respond to the fallout that beset the A&M administration lately as a result of this... tribute?
Any press is good press, right? Well right now Texas A&M is getting all the good press their PR department can handle. I’ve always said that nothing strengthens a brand quite like a memorial. It wasn't a memorial, though.
I realize that some students may have opposed the idea, but this isn’t about just one person. It’s about The Twelve Men. And this is The Home Of The Twelve Men, am I right?