League 42 is expanding its reach beyond baseball to education with the help of the Shocker Ad Lab.
“We're entering the realm of trying to help kids with some educational needs,” said Bob Lutz, League 42 founder and executive director. “By adding the educational component, we take ourselves to another level.”
Lutz knew how to start a youth baseball league and help it grow. When he needed branding and talking points to help raise money for a building project to house the new academic program, he wanted help.
Shocker Ad Lab, Wichita State's student-run, advertising agency housed in the Elliott School of Communication, took on League 42's project. The team created a logo for “Basepath to Success” academic program and the “From Double Plays to Diplomas” tag line. They wrote a mission statement, researched statistics linking athletics and academics and designed table tents for a fundraising dinner to kick off the capital campaign.
“You go into school thinking you're not really going to do something like this, but you get the experience of doing this with Shocker Ad Lab,” said student graphic designer Joshua Perez. “It's student-focused, so we're the ones who are building relationships with clients, we're doing all the graphics, we're doing everything a normal agency would be doing, but under the terms of being students.”
Lutz, the former Wichita Eagle sports columnist and current KFH sports-talk radio host, started the non-profit League 42 six years ago to bring baseball to youth in the inner-city. The league operates at McAdams Park. Its enrollment grew from around 200 players, ages 5-14, on 16 teams to its current size of around 590 on 43 teams.
In August, Lutz announced plans to build an indoor facility and parking lot at 1212 E. 17thSt., near McAdams, for a baseball and academic center. League 42 recently held a fundraising dinner, using materials created by Shocker Ad Lab, hosted by Wichita State basketball's Gregg and Lynn Marshall. Lutz's goal is to raise $600,000-800,000.
“What (Shocker Ad Lab) has done is tremendous, because it gives us a focus,” Lutz said. “It's a lot easier for us to talk to people about what we do. Getting it all down in one spot, all our accomplishments, why this league serves kids well, is important.”
The educational program will focus on third-grade reading and middle-school math, subjects Lutz said League 42's committee recommended as pivotal to success.
Shocker Ad Lab brand manager Andi Cota started the project by writing a creative brief for the students to follow. She completed a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis, identified the target audience and determined the unique selling proposition of League 42 and Basepath to Success.
Shocker Ad Lab developed branding and marketing tools to see Basepath to Success to families of League 42 baseball players, as well as to potential financial supporters. Lutz used the branding and strategic marketing tools to fundraise for the project.
“I'm learning a lot of things I'm actually going to use after I graduate,” Cota said. “I looked up statistics on young athletes and how that transitions with their grades. For a lot of middle school and high school students who are involved in athletics, it does help their overall GPA.”
Shocker Ad Lab copy writer Adam Birzer wrote and the narrowed down 80 taglines to 30 to present internally to the group.
“Brainstorming, going way beyond what you think you're going to need, is part of the process,” said Madeline McCullough, Shocker Ad Lab's faculty creative director.
The group eventually narrowed down Birzer's 30 options to five to present to Lutz. Birzer said connecting baseball and academics in seven words or less challenged his creative skills.
“I had a lot of writer's block at first,” Birzer said. “It showed me what it takes to be successful in this. You sit down and write four pages of headlines at midnight. It's given me a lot more confidence in my ability to become a good copywriter.”
Early in the process, Cota sketched about 20 rough logo ideas. The entire class critiqued the ideas, narrowing to one and Perez took over to create the finished product. The logo will be used on table tents and League 42/Basepath to Success materials and it may decorate the outside of League 42's new building and uniforms.
“You're doing real world stuff,” Perez said. “Maybe someday, my logo is going to be on a patch, or Adam is going to see his tagline on a bunch of things.”
Cota and Perez said working with clients is helping their people skills. They are learning how to work with clients, both by leading the client in the right direction and by listening to the needs of the client.
I think that's the goal of Shocker Ad Lab, making sure we maintain that relationship where we can continue doing branding for him,” Perez said.
“Students kind of get the idea you're an order-taker,” McCullough said. “In here, they come to us because we're the experts. They don't really want someone who does everything they say they want. They want someone who will push back a little bit. We've got to figure out ways to work with clients to guide them toward something better.”
Because Shocker Ad Lab works with businesses, deadlines are critical and that pressure can be new and helpful to the students. McCullough organizes a year-long calendar with a hot list of immediate priorities in the Elliott Hall second-floor classroom.
“There are real deadlines, and it's not like the professor is going to be lenient,” Perez said. “You have to get this done.”
Last week, Shocker Ad Lab got it done. Lutz picked up his table tents the day before the fundraising dinner. On Thursday, with an assist from the students at Shocker Ad Lab, he started raising money for Basepath to Success.