Brand butchery: Cougs flub uniform unveiling

STOP THEM BEFORE they commit PR hari-kari again. Just three weeks after the Apple Cup-at-Qwest Field fiasco -- a textbook example of how to screw up the communication around an issue -- WSU announces that the long-awaited unveiling of its new Nike football uniforms will happen in Pasco. In a facility known for monster truck rallies and Jehovah Witness conventions.

It's no joke.

The same university that is the home of one of the nation's outstanding communication schools -- a school that has produced countless stars in news, public relations and advertising -- has apparently decided to seek its branding advice from Mr. Haney.

For those of you too young to know or too old to remember, Mr. Haney was the ham-handed salesman on the old TV show Green Acres. Everyone knew he was peddling nonsense except for poor Mr. Douglas.

So here we are all these years later and the Con Man of Hooterville appears to be back at it. The Cougs are going upscale with new threads from Nike and they've deemed Pasco the best place on the planet to unveil their sartorial splendor to the public. It'll happen June 12 at the annual Tri-Cities tailgater.

In Pasco.

With a barbeque.

At a large facility called the TRAC Center -- a place that proclaims it was "built around the needs of the Equine Community."

Whoa, Nellie.

CRIMSON COMMENTARY

No offense to our friends in Pasco, because it's a decent enough place that produces some great high school football, basketball and soccer teams. And the annual tailgater that WSU alums put on is a barn burner. But on the scale of hip and cool, Pasco is not even among the top two in the Tri-Cities.

The question begs: Does Phil Knight know what WSU has cooked up for his swoosh? He might send the Cougs right back to Russell if he hears about this.

MR. HANEY

Putting Jason Gesser's Heisman banner on the side of the grain elevator in Dusty was a stroke of PR genius.

Embracing Nike in a town where only 56 percent of adults have graduated from high school (roughly 30 points less than the state average) is just plain weird.

There must be a Coen Brothers screenplay hiding somewhere in all this.

Maybe that's it. Instead of $10 million to move the Apple Cup to Qwest, WSU has decided to cash in with Hollywood by turning the unveiling of its new uniforms into a scene straight out of Fargo.

Here's the twist: Rather than one of the bad guys getting tossed into the wood chipper it's the clown who decided an equine and monster truck center in Pasco was the best place on the friggin planet to tie the knot with Nike.

Paging Frances McDormand.

This is a disgrace. Or maybe (cross your fingers) it's a brilliant spoof by Borat.

The guess here is that it is what it is: Marketing malpractice wrapped in branding butchery, dipped in manure, and tied with a bow that says I AM A BUSH LEAGUER.

But hey, at least the Tri-City Herald gets a scoop on something outside of the Hanford Reservation.

WSU's uniform unveiling had the potential for a ton of PR fun. The school could have planted a series of red herrings to pique interest and get pundits talking. They could have kept it under wraps until the week before the team stormed out of the tunnel at Martin Stadium on Sept. 5.

They could have suited up Dwight Tardy in a home uniform and Andy Mattingly in the road togs, loaded 'em into a Brinks armored truck, driven to the Nike Store in downtown Seattle and had them come flying out the back with fire extinguishers pouring, cheerleaders cheering and the marching band playing.

It could have been a made-for-TV spectacle right there in the heart of the community where the majority of WSU graduates live.

But no. Instead they're headed to the center of the "equine community."

Teaming up with Nike in downtown Seattle or grilling steaks at the TRAC Center in Pasco.

Hmmmm.

Tough call -- if you're Mr. Haney from Hooterville.

If Ed Murrow wasn't already turning in his grave over WSU's calamitous handling of the Qwest Apple Cup idea, this latest entry into the PR Hall of Shame should have him spinning.

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