A simple video with a few people singing the University of Washington’s fight song, "Bow Down to Washington," has got people lining up for BECU’s UW gold debit card.
It probably helped that it was only on YouTube and its featured singers were famous UW alumni, including Boston Celtics star Nate Robinson, two-time Super Bowl champion Damon Huard and musician Kenny G.
The viral campaign was a collaboration between BECU, University of Washington Athletics and Alumni Association, Colehour+Cohen (which produced and directed the video) and PR and advertising agency DNA. Shot and edited over a three-and-a-half-week period in late January and early February in Seattle and Los Angeles, the video has gone viral with over 30,935 views and the Seattle-based credit union has issued some 13,000 UW gold debit cards.
"It has been a stunning success and the campaign not only helped build awareness but really brought the debit card to life for a lot of people," said Toby Travis, senior marketing strategist at BECU. "We wanted to appeal to all Husky fans, and very few things represent a school better than its fight song, and ‘Bow Down to Washington’ embodies the history, passion and spirit of the University of Washington. So we felt using notable alumni in their natural setting singing the fight song would be authentic and fun, especially since, with the exception of Kenny G, none of them were professional musicians or singers, so they all sang equally bad."
The card is just the latest project in a longtime partnership between BECU and UW.
About three years ago, recognizing an untapped market in UW students and alumni who were eligible to join, BECU developed a college strategy which included increased outreach efforts and partnerships with not only the University of Washington but also other area community colleges, expanding access and convenience with nearby branches and on campus ATMs, and offering new products and services such as private student loans. BECU began sponsoring UW Athletics in football and basketball, which included signage at Husky Stadium and Hec Ed Pavillion along with in-game promotions. In addition to the partnerships with UW Athletics and the UW Alumni Association, BECU has also partnered with UW student groups to host educational seminars on campus and has participated in other on-campus events.
"What’s great is UW approached us to offer the debit card, which a bank had a right to but had never used it. For us it was a perfect fit," said Travis. "We know that college students are a tough group to reach, but what we found is that when we do reach them they are very receptive to the credit union message."
It was a first using celebrities, and Travis said those who participated were really doing it for the school. In addition, a collective donation of $10,000 in the name of every celebrity who participated in the video will be made to the University of Washington Alumni Association scholarship fund.
"Without the attachment to UW and that it was for a UW debit card I don’t know if these people would’ve been as willing to be a part of it. Leveraging that university allegiance tie-in was huge and I think being a credit union made a difference as well. We also made it clear that this was just going to be on YouTube–it wasn’t a television commercial," said Travis. "Our biggest challenge was money and timing, we didn’t have much of both so once we found the notable alums we were as flexible as possible and went to them so we made it easy for them to participate."
Travis added that all the partners worked together reaching out to contact alumni.
"It’s funny everyone started with ‘I can’t sing,’ but after two or three takes, singing the fight song they knew so well, it wasn’t an issue," said Travis. "We thought this viral campaign would be good–we just didn’t know it would be as good as it was. From the day we launched the video there was about a five- to sixfold increase in cards. The results far outpaced what we expected."
On the day of the launch, the video was shared by several cast members on their Facebook and Twitter accounts, including Kenny G, Global Travel Guru Rick Steves, Nate Robinson, and former Seattle SuperSonics star Detlef Scrempf. In addition, it was shared on several UW and UW-affiliated Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and blogs.