A team deemed “Big Blue” by its supporters won the Super Bowl. But shades of Butler blue colored events leading up to and surrounding the big game.
Butler University officials are claiming victory in a coordinated effort to earn publicity and involve the Butler community in a variety of ways as Indianapolis hosted the National Football League’s championship game for the first time on Feb. 5.
They say the value of Butler’s public relations success is priceless.
“It was March Madness in February,” said Marcia Dowell, executive director of university relations.
The campus hosted a stand-up event starring NBC late-night host Jimmy Fallon, the NFL’s celebration of gospel music, a celebrity basketball game for charity, a comedy show with big personalities, a dinner for public safety planners, free tours of Hinkle Fieldhouse and two Butler men’s basketball home games.
People affiliated with the university participated in Fallon’s live post-Super Bowl special, Madonna’s performance in the halftime show and official NFL social media promotion, among other events.
As usual, mascot Butler Blue II was in the middle of it all.
The English bulldog visited the Super Bowl Village and Radio Row, judged a cooking contest, appeared on a CBS television special, filmed a spot for Fallon’s live show, posed for pictures, added about 400 followers on Twitter and was named one of the Social 46 by the city’s Super Bowl host committee.
“At the end of it, you say, ‘This is all the stuff we did,’” Michael Kaltenmark, director of web marketing and communications, said. “I don’t know how you could look at that as not being successful and not having a good week.”
Courtney Tuell, director of public relations, said she reached out to Super Bowl officials months before the game to find out how Butler could become involved, and she’s happy with how it all turned out.
“It keeps Butler’s name in the national spotlight,” she said. “The impact will be positive. [Many events] were once-in-a-lifetime experiences for our students that have likely resulted in a lot of great experiences and memories.”
The Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show was among those.
Eric Stark, a professor of music, directed a 200-person choir that sung “Like a Prayer” on stage with Madonna. Included were 22 members of the Butler chorale.
“That’s incredible,” Kaltenmark said. “The value comes back in recruitment and enrollment. We can tout that that happened, [that] you’re going to get opportunities just by who we are and where we are.”
Super Bowl week also affected campus visitation.
About six families toured Butler —and about 20 more requested visits—because of the Super Bowl, Beth Petrie, associate director of admission, said.
Petrie said many of those prospective students and their families were from the East Coast, which is home to both the victorious New York Giants and the vanquished New England Patriots.
Teenagers weren’t the only ones setting foot on Butler ground.
Ben Hunter, chief of staff and executive director of public safety, co-chaired the Visiting Public Safety Committee. The committee hosted several security planners at a dinner Feb. 2 in the Reilly Room.
“They fell in love with our campus,” Hunter said.
Butler also partnered with the Horizon League to make 50 free tickets available to Super Bowl media for both the Feb. 2 game against Wright State and the Feb. 4 matchup with Detroit.
Nearly all were used by members of the press, including Boston Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan, who said he saw something at Hinkle he’d never seen before — a timeout promotion in which fans raced remote control cars.
Butler’s athletics department promoted free tours of the fieldhouse, and 129 people went through in five days.
Matt Harris, manager of fan development for Butler athletics, said the tours were one of the few special events held away from downtown.
“Everybody in Indianapolis was doing something,” said Harris, who led most tours. “That we were a part of that shows where we stand in our community.”
Butler was perhaps showcased most by the opening segment of the live “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” in which Fallon sat on a couch with Blue II, in a room with students in Butler T-shirts, and then ran out of Atherton Union, past the bulldog statue, and tiptoed atop the “Butler University” sign parallel with Hampton Drive. Hink was seen on camera inside the Hilbert Theatre.
“The icing on the cake,” Kaltenmark said of the show that involved more than 100 Butler students and was viewed by 6.166 million people. “To see that exposure, Butler couldn’t buy that. We couldn’t afford it. It’s just priceless any way you cut it.”
Tuell said she agreed that a monetary value on Butler’s PR couldn’t be figured, and Dowell said the positive press about the city in general helps the school, too.
Kaltenmark said his only regret is not succeeding in his effort to book Blue II to appear on “Today” or “Fox and Friends.”
But he said the university’s overall success was stunning.
“It’s the Super Bowl coming to your backyard,” Kaltenmark said. “You’ve got to try to get in on that. Here’s an event that for all intents and purposes has nothing to do with you — it’s professional football — and we came away as one of the city’s major players. I bet people thought, ‘That Butler, they did it again.’”