The Green Man: An Integrated Sports Marketing Ambush Strategy

Keith Becker uosportsdude.comCorrespondent IDecember 11, 2009

It’s no secret that people are attracted to celebrity. That’s why brands and mega-corporations hire athletes, actors and hot women to promote their products: people often blindly emulate and imitate the stars they idolize.

Michael Jordan built Nike, George Foreman became known more his grills than his boxing career, and Peyton Manning, well, he’ll endorse just about anything.

Celebrity endorsements can work on a national scale if the celebrity’s star power is strong enough, but in some cases, it can be more efficient to target local icons where the entire community will get behind just about everything they say.

Case in point: The Oregon Green Man.

Football is just about as big at the University of Oregon as Tiger Woods is nationwide, so if a company can hire a passionate, loveable fan that epitomizes Oregon Football—for a fraction of the price—there’s a good chance that the company will get a good return on its investment.

Lundquist College of Business seniors Steven Strand and Daniel Cogan, were hired by New York-based marketing agency Mr. Youth to be Hewett Packard brand ambassadors on the Oregon campus.

Seeing that HP doesn’t have a sponsorship agreement with the University of Oregon athletic department, the students were struggling to find a way to align themselves with the university.

As students of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, they saw the opportunity to leverage their role as HP Ambassadors and align their marketing efforts with one of the universities premier sports properties in such a way that required no official purchase of marketing rights.

By recognizing and leveraging a local student icon, they were able to promote, advertise, and execute a successful ambush campaign.

DuckVision, ESPN cameras and Facebook users all love the Green Man—and they should. If he’s crazy enough to wear nothing but a paper-thin nylon suit to 20 degree football games, the man deserves some attention.

And boy, has he gotten plenty of it.

With over 3,000 dedicated fans on Facebook—mostly students—the Green Man can easily communicate with the desired target audience. As a key element of promoting an HP-sponsored tailgate before the Arizona State game, they required the Green Man to post several times in his status updates that he would be hanging out at the tailgate.

Word quickly spread and the Oregon Daily Emerald, the student-run newspaper, published a release about the endorsement agreement: “The HP tailgate event has also partnered with Green Man, an enthusiastic University football fan, to attend the event, take photos and greet fans”.

Steve and Daniel estimate that over 300 people stopped by to enjoy the free hot dogs provided by HP and to check out the dm3 computer they had set up.

Along with the tailgate, the Green Man wore cleverly placed HP stickers on his suit during the game, finding his way numerous times onto DuckVision and ESPN to boot.

“”HP’s Brand Ambassadors, Dan and Steve, came to us with the suggestion to incorporate the Green Man into an HP sponsored tailgate that the team was hosting to promote the new HP Pavilion dm3 notebook,” said Mr. Youth representative Ashley Tyson.

“We were excited to see the Green Man supporting the HP brand. HP is deeply invested in student life at the University of Oregon and we will look to continue that in future semesters.”

Without a doubt, the partnership has been a resounding success. With low input costs and lots of exposure, the brand ambassadors found a great strategy for influencing brand preference at a critical age for potential lifelong HP customers.

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