KATIE GOODRICH | Asst. News Editor
Butler Blue III broke out of the Butler bubble to travel across the country on the Big Dawgs Tour.
The Big Dawgs Tour takes advantage of Butler’s new affiliation with the Big East Conference.
“The tour is engaging different audiences, both internal and external,” said Matthew Mindrum, vice president for marketing and communication. “The audiences are both those associated with Butler and those not yet associated. This year, we did more work with prospective students in partnership with alumni.”
Michael Kaltenmark, director of external affairs and Trip’s owner, drives the Built Ford Tough Blue Mobile vehicle to different legs of the tour.
Kaltenmark usually brings another person with him on the tour to help with Trip. Tom Otero, Butler’s new media specialist, helps with everything from navigating, to tweeting, to helping get Trip out for a bathroom break.
Mindrum joined Kaltenmark and Trip on the St. Louis leg of the tour.
“One of my favorite things is to watch folks who never heard of Butler suddenly engage with the university because Trip is such an engaging personality, as is Michael (Kaltenmark),” Mindrum said.
While public relations and marketing are its main objectives, the tour is also used for recruitment and alumni engagement, Kaltenmark said.
“The concept is simple: Take our live mascot on the road to various destinations to ‘see and be seen,’” Kaltenmark said via email while in Washington, D.C. “All the while, we do our best to broadcast our travels and experiences on social media.”
Mindrum said the focus is broader media engagement.
“Michael arranged some opportunities in front of traditional news media in Chicago,” Mindrum said. “Even bigger than that is social media, which is the biggest aspect of the tour. That’s where Trip’s 11,000 Twitter followers come in.”
The most recent leg included Pittsburgh, Penn., and Washington, D.C.
This is the second Big Dawgs Tour. The experience of last year’s tour led to better results this year, Kaltenmark said.
Planning started in the fall. Some activities and events are pre-planned, but some experiences are impromptu.
“When we were in Washington, D.C., this year, Butler graduate Scott Nemeth, who works for Indiana Senator Dan Coats, saw that we were in town and invited us over for a visit to the senator’s office,” Kaltenmark said. “That visit then led to access and a tour of the U.S. Capitol building.”
The spontaneous plan was one of this year’s highlights, Kaltenmark said.
“That’s the beauty of social media and the real time conversations that occur while we are on the road,” Kaltenmark said.
Trip’s large social media presence aids the planning process.
“The entities we contact see the value in what we’re doing and understand that they have some PR to gain as a result of the affiliation,” Kaltenmark said.
The costs come from travel expenses, marketing materials and vehicle costs. Last year’s tour cost less than $10,000, Mindrum said.
The tour is paid for through the Butler Blue live mascot fund, Kaltenmark said.
“We try to offset such expenses via sponsorships and outside funding, and our partnership with PetBox (an organization that provides gifts for pets) is an example of that,” Kaltenmark said. “The overall investment is very affordable, especially when compared to the amount of exposure and the media advertising equivalency Butler receives as a result of our travels.”
Mindrum said he believes this year’s tour will be fully self-financed.
“I am supremely confident the value we derive from the tour through recruiting, engaging with alumni and exposing people to the university will outweigh the costs of the tour,” Mindrum said.
Trip is a good traveler and enjoys getting out of the house, Kaltenmark said.
Trip’s favorite experiences, according to Kaltenmark, include his first plane ride with the men’s basketball team, visiting Southpaw of the Chicago White Sox, and meeting his fellow bulldog mascots, Georgetown University‘s Jack the Bulldog and Bryant University’s Tupper.