Behind The Scenes

Behind ‘Terrible Towels’ ad campaign

Fans around the world have submitted their photos to the "It's Not Crazy, It's Sports" Terrible Towel campaign.

SLIDESHOW: CLICK THIS to see TERRIBLE TOWELS photos and submit your own.

The brainchild of beloved Pittsburgh Steelers’ announcer Myron Cope, the Terrible Towel is emblematic of Steelers’ fandom.

You can find Steelers fans virtually everywhere — even moments after birth.

It’s probably only a matter of time one shows up in a Troy Polamalu shampoo commercial.

The latest leg of the ESPN’s “It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports” ad campaign capitalizes on the Steelers’ fan tradition of taking their Terrible Towels everywhere they travel — and providing photographic proof of their adventures with the laundry.

Recently, ESPN launched a website that solicits fan submissions of their pictures with the Terrible Towels that will be uploaded into a slideshow.

More than 1,200 pictures have been submitted. You can click on that slideshow for details on how you can send your photos.

Kevin Kirksey, ESPN’s Senior Director, Brand Franchises, Marketing, spoke to Front Row about how the idea came to be — and what the future holds for those photos.

In his position at ESPN, he works with a team that helps “develop marketing strategies and campaigns to support Content Development, X Games, ESPN Films, ESPYs — and we manage the ‘It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports’ brand campaign.”

FR: What’s the driving theme of the “It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports” series? Is there a unifying concept? How long has the series existed?

Kirksey: “It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports” started in the summer of 2010. It’s an ongoing campaign created to share our slightly insane — but inspired– love of sports with fans. We find sports truths or truisms, that celebrate exceptional fandom, athletes or sports moments. Or moments –such as “Roll Tide” — that share how sports can drift into everyday life. The campaign points out that while there are many mundane, forgettable things in the world, sports are definitely not one of those things. Sports are crazy. They’re unforgettable, inspiring and dramatic. And that’s why we’re all such big fans.

FR: How did the idea to get fans to submit photos of themselves with Terrible Towels come about?

Kirksey: Steelers fans have been doing this for years. They travel well. And they seem to place as much importance on bringing a passport, as making sure they pack their Terrible Towel. If you search on YouTube, there are hundreds of videos of Steeler fans at the Grand Canyon, on the Great Wall of China, even on the space station! We just tapped into a known fan phenomenon. But it’s the perfect representative example of how fandom travels far and wide.

FR: You’ve had more than 1,200 photo submissions in the first week. What’s the next step of the campaign — will these photos be seen in TV and print ads? If so, when?

Kirksey: We’ve been blown away by the response to the campaign. We partnered with the Steelers organization and Allegheny Valley School to reach out to fans through their Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and through several blogs. We’re going to keep aggregating content for another couple weeks. We’ll use that content, and augment it with some shoots to recreate other fans videos. Then we’ll create a spot that will air across ESPN in early November.

FR: Is this the most fan-driven “It’s Not Crazy” campaign — where fan-submitted content is the basis for the ads?

Kirksey: It’s not the first fan-driven element of the campaign. We held a fun athlete-inspired sandwich competition last spring called “Fanwiches.” Fans, restaurants and bars were asked to submit their best sandwich creations. The winner brought the sandwich to Bristol and served it in our cafeteria. But this is the first ad that will be created with the help of fan-submitted content. And given the amount of unique content out there, it probably won’t be the last.

FR: What are some of your personal favorite photos of those submitted?

Kirksey:
We’ve gotten so many photos from military personnel across the globe. We didn’t expect that, and it was a nice surprise. And fans have submitted photos from every other location around the world. At this point, I’m convinced the Terrible Towel has literally been everywhere. Beyond the locations, people are also sharing photos at weddings, parties, of babies, and pets. It’s just fun to scroll through the site to see all of the random places people have chosen to snap off a photo…with the Towel. Each image tells a different story, but everyone seems to be having a great time.

Click on the website link towelaroundtheworld.com to see the photo slide show. Tell us your favorites in the comments below.

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