The Auburn University Bookstore has a long-standing tradition of handing out buttons to football fans who visit the store on Saturday home games. Every set of buttons has a unique slogan, tailored to the individual game. However, coming up with new slogans every year became quite a challenge for the staff.
According to Jennifer Edwards, marketing and communication specialist for the store, fan feedback is a constant factor in choosing the slogans.
“If we have a bad slogan, we definitely hear about it. Especially from older fans who have had years of season tickets, and really look forward to the buttons,” she explained. “They’re our button connoisseurs.”
“It’s hard to be that creative time and time again, especially when you play the same teams. One year we played Bulldog teams three times. But people love the game day buttons. They line up for them and always say ‘how do you come up with these?’”
They definitely wanted to keep the buttons coming, so they decided to outsource the slogan brainstorming and run an annual contest. The author of the winning slogan for each game receives an AU Bookstore t-shirt and ten buttons featuring their phrase. Initially the contest was held in store, but for the past three years, submissions have been moved online.
“I’ve found that if I tweet to several key influencers, they’ll usually spread the word to their followers,” Edwards said. She also sent out an email to a fan-based list that boasts about 10,000 contacts.
This year they had approximately 700 entries from more than 150 people, ranging from clever to puzzling.
“We always get some strange ones. We had a guy who was totally obsessed with seconds, so all of his were like ‘There are 32,000 seconds in a game.’ Another one was ‘Do it for David.’ Every time, the same person submitted that. I don’t know who David is or why we should do it for him,” she joked.
“The games where we play big rivals usually prompt some hilarious submissions. And we get a lot of questionable ones. This year ‘twerking’ made an appearance. Others are inspired by the school mascots, like when we play South Carolina; they’re the Gamecocks, so you can imagine. It takes some heavy editing.”
After all of the submissions are in, Edwards and her team evaluate and choose the winners. Though the winners are established in May, the winning slogans aren’t revealed until the week they’re handed out. Even the winners don’t know which slogan has been chosen, just that they’ve won. This is to eliminate the risk of button bootleggers, which was a problem in the past. Once the slogan was announced, people would print up the buttons and attempt to sell them at the game.
The enthusiastic response to the button contest and other online promotions the store runs has been especially gratifying. Edwards aims to involve the student population as much as possible, with weekly giveaways and interaction-based short term contests.
“It can be difficult for those in our industry to connect – especially for stores with school programs that have a heavy emphasis on athletics. We just try to make everything really fun and a little goofy, and involve people. Asking for the student perspective sometimes leads to an unexpected response. It also gives us some insight into the outlook and mindset of our fans by constantly promoting interaction on Facebook and Twitter.”
The store plans to continue the tradition of the button contest next year, and will reveal the first winning slogan at the first home game in August.