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July 16, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: New poster 'stands for any member of our team'

MORGANTOWN — A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words, but in sports marketing it well may be that a picture is worth a thousand tickets sold.

That, at least, is the belief of West Virginia University’s marketing department that each year outdoes itself with a giveaway item whose quality has come to go beyond the quality being presented on the field.

Their schedule posters over the past few years have been classics — ranking second in the judging nationally last year and first in the previous two seasons.

This year, with a simply complex image of a Mountaineer football player that carries a cryptic image, they have outdone themselves.

The poster, which finds its way onto bedroom and barroom walls across the state and with alumni across the land, is the brainchild of WVU promotions newcomer Kristin Coldsnow — a rather apt name for someone hired this past winter as the athletic department’s multimedia specialist.

Her creativity and work with publicist Michael Fragale, marketer Matt Wells and publications director Joe Swan combined to produce the schedule poster.

The message is there in headline form above the schedule, saying simply “Be a Mountaineer.”

“The ‘Be A Mountaineer’ brand we have used over the years in terms of ticket-related promotions,” Wells explained. “Whether you are a player, a fan, a donor, a season ticket holder, a single game ticket holder, we want you to be a Mountaineer.”

But it is the graphic that whispers the message at you in the most subtle of ways.

Standing there is a fully clad Mountaineer football player, his identity hidden by a dark facial shield and by only the very top of his uniform number visible, as the stomach part of it is torn open.

In the past, and normally, an item such as the schedule poster features the images of the team’s star players, perhaps the best previous example being one that spotlighted quarterback Geno Smith and wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

But this year is a faceless symbol who, Wells would say, “you can figure that out. It adds to the mystique.”

Indeed, this is not about creating a Heisman Trophy candidate or pushing a new coach or an All-American candidate.

It’s about much more.

“The fans deserve something special,” said Coldsnow in a video introducing the poster. “We wanted to drive home the idea of team and unity, and it’s going to take everybody, every player on the team, every coach, every member of Mountaineer nation to show who we are and what we stand for.”

“Be A Mountaineer” ... that is what they are saying.

And what is a Mountaineer?

To West Virginians it is a state of mind, a way of life. You work hard, play hard, enjoy the beauty your state offers in surplus. You are honest and friendly and fair and loving and caring.

You are all that and more.

You are the Mountaineer mascot, too. While one person, Fairmont’s Michael Garcia, represents all that, as Wells said, everyone wants to be a Mountaineer.

So it is that when you look through the tear you find not a six-pack of abs or an undershirt, but instead a buckskin outfit.

Football player or Mountaineer?

Or both?

“It’s about the Mountaineers and not individuals. It stands for any member of our team ... under the jersey they are a Mountaineer,” Wells said.

“When you look at that, you see that underneath that uniform — no matter if it’s football or basketball — there’s that Mountaineer belief and attitude is in everyone, even those of us who work here. We’re Mountaineers underneath everything,” Swan explained.

“The idea we’re trying to get across is those guys are representing the state of West Virginia and representing all of us.”

And doing it on a full-sized poster guarantees the message will get wide distribution as this is one of the top items of any year, being hung for display of the schedule, for its look or as an item to collect autographs on.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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