Dixie State University is up against NASA, Starbucks, JetBlue and KFC’s Extra Crispy Sunscreen for the “industry’s most prestigious award” in public relations.
DSU's Marketing and Communication office and Love Communications, the public relations firm that helped establish the Trailblazer identity in 2016, were named as finalists for the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil Award for rolling out DSU’s new mascot and identity last year.
“We’re up against the biggest companies in the world,” said Jordon Sharp, DSU’s chief marketing and communication officer. “But we thought if there was ever a time to throw our hat in the ring, this was the time.”
Along with a brief case study, surveys, pictures, videos, logo designs, timelines, and other data about the rolling out of DSU’s Trailblazer identity were all included in the 300-page application for the Silver Anvil Award.
It was 10 years worth of data, and it was turned in 10 minutes before the deadline.
“We got it in at 11:50 (p.m.) the day it was due, and it was due at midnight,” Sharp said. “But we were happy to get it in and thrilled when we heard we were finalists.”
Sharp said the details of the rebranding is what sets DSU apart from other institutions’ athletic rebrandings that “innately go bad” because of the loyalty that people have with mascots and brands.
“There is a lot of passion and love that people have for athletics,” Sharp said. “That’s a good thing, but it makes rebranding athletics extremely difficult.”
It’s been almost exactly one year since community members and students packed themselves into the Cox Auditorium to hear the announcement that DSU’s new athletic identity would be the Trailblazers and the mascot would be Brooks the Bison.
“Everyone went to bed that night, and when they woke up, literally the campus was rebranded; the city was rebranded,” Sharp said.
Shirts and merchandise with the new logo and identity were immediately distributed around town. Signs and banners were hung across campus and St. George with the bison logo. Assemblies were held in public schools where students were taught about the identity and received T-shirts. A children’s book with Brooks the Bison as a character was sent to every household in Washington County. A bison statue was erected on campus. The Trailblazer Art in the City project allowed local artists to paint bison statues and spread them around the community.
Sharp said the rollout of the new identity has caused merchandising, community involvement and donations at DSU to rise.
“The athletic rebranding process … has reignited the community’s passion for DSU and made them even more excited to live in Trailblazer nation,” President Biff Williams said.
The rebranding process went so well, Sharp said he if he were to go back and do it again, there is nothing he would do differently. He said he is planning something "really exciting" with the identity that will be announced soon.
Joel Griffin, public relations and publications coordinator, said establishing the new identity healed a lot of hurt and filled a hole in the community.
“Everyone has been a little confused in the past as to what we are,” Griffin said. “And now we know. We’re happy that the alumni are passionate about their (Rebels) identity, and we want the students to be just as passionate.”
Winners for the Silver Anvil Awards will be announced at the award ceremony June 8 in New York City. In addition to being named as a finalist for the Silver Anvil Award, DSU also recently received a SAMY Award in the Public Relations Launch category from the Utah Business magazine.