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A farmer on Colorado’s eastern plains. A rap artist. A nationally known sculptor. A Denver Bronco. A hospital’s chief medical officer. A zookeeper.
These people may not seem to have much in common at first glance, but they are all proud to be CSU Rams.
They are some of the Colorado State University alumni featured in a new marketing campaign called “Proud To Be,” launched at the first home football game against Hawaii on Aug. 25.
The 30-second commercial debuted on the RamVision video board at Canvas Stadium spotlighting a variety of alumni in their career environments, quietly singing the CSU chant, “I said I’m proud … to be … a CSU Ram.” In the coming months, there will be a rollout of mini-documentaries profiling the individuals and the various careers, lifestyles and passions they have pursued since graduation.
Familiar, yet new
“I love this campaign, because it is at once very familiar and brand-new,” said Vice President for External Relations Tom Milligan. “Colorado State University is absolutely the backbone of Colorado’s economy, social life and culture, and this campaign effectively demonstrates that.”
Fans at the season opener also saw the premiere of two short videos featuring alumni Stephen Brackett, a musician in the Flobots, and Matthew Lenyo, an assistant curator at the Denver Zoo.
“It was inspiring to find so many Rams out there living very fulfilling lives,” said CSU Assistant Vice President for Brand Strategy Elias Martinez, who came up with the idea for the campaign. “At a time when some people are questioning the value of higher education, we wanted our alumni and their accomplishments to be the voice of the University. What we found is that ‘success’ is not uniform, it’s unique and individual. And it’s CSU’s mission to prepare people to realize their own version of success, whatever that may be.”
Singing the same tune
Martinez explained that the campaign is designed to give the familiar “Proud To Be” chant new meaning by showing it outside of sporting events.
“Capturing a doctor, a farmer, an artist, a linebacker — all making a difference in their communities, all singing the same tune — is the heart of the idea,” he said. “And CSU is what links them together.”
Martinez added that it was important to allow staff videographers carry out the project, instead of outsourcing it.
“We have some very talented folks here at the University,” he said. “Rather than outsourcing, we chose to invest in our own people, and they work they produced is as good as anything you’ll see come out of New York, Minneapolis or Los Angeles.”
Brian Buss, the videographer who spearheaded the mini-documentaries and spent hours with each subject to capture the essence of their professional and personal lives, said the experience has been rewarding.
“To be invited into their homes, their studios, their work environments, and to spend a day with them has been really rich,” he said. “We have a lot of alumni who love CSU, and they were more than happy to take part. When you see artist Pard Morrison’s video, you’ll see he’s not just talking to art students when he says to be true to yourself and go for it.”
When the CSU video crew visited farmer Andy Bartlett at his place in Merino, Buss said, “We quickly realized that his young son West was the star of the show.” That’s evident in the footage of the 3-year-old riding in the tractor with his dad, or attempting to squirt him with a water hose.
Buss asked Bartlett for permission to pitch a tent in his yard so that the videographers could get up at sunrise and shoot in the golden early morning hours. The farmer agreed, and the family shared their home-cooked lasagna dinner with the visitors. At dawn, Bartlett set his center-pivot irrigation system into motion with a smartphone swipe, allowing Buss to capture water droplets falling in just the right angle of light. Bartlett, a drone operator, even provided the aerial footage seen in the video.
“He was a gracious host,” Buss said. “Andy’s become a good friend.”
Buss credited his CSU collaborators in the ongoing project: Dan Butcher, Joe Mendoza, Ben Ward, Andrew Hanson and Matt Gohl.
“To do good work, it requires a team, and I had a great team to work with,” he said.
The campaign will also involve print advertising and ads in public spaces, mixing emotional storytelling with facts about CSU that exhibit the University’s culture of student success.
“Hopefully this campaign will elicit more stories from alumni who are ‘Proud To Be,’” Martinez said.
To learn more and view video from the campaign, visit proudtobe.colostate.edu.
Download the main 30-second spot on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/282879881