How Do You Change 200-Year-Old Greek Life Traditions?
Some call it a rite of passage, some call it “brotherhood” or “sisterhood.” Because of a dangerous tradition, more than 200 university students have died from hazing-related accidents in America since 1838—with 40 deaths between 2007 and 2017 alone. In 2014, West Virginia University lost one of their own. 18-year-old Nolan Burch died after a fraternity pledging event went wrong, when he passed out with a blood-alcohol level nearly 6x the legal limit. Nolan was unconscious for an hour before his fraternity brothers took his condition seriously and called for medical help, but it was too late. Understanding the severity of Nolan’s death, West Virginia University made a commitment to ensure hazing deaths do not happen again to any of their students.
WVU decided to build an anti-hazing campaign to commemorate the five-year mark of Nolan’s passing in 2019, and reached out to Anyone™ and City Drive Entertainment Group. Partnering with City Drive’s Daniel Catullo and Carl Rosenberg, Anyone™ created the campaign strategy, crafting messaging and designing creative assets. The strategy was then used to create a feature-length documentary to communicate Nolan’s story. Campaign assets would be rolled out to students via WVU’s Safety & Wellness Department along with the Nolan Michael Burch Foundation—a non-profit established by Nolan’s parents, Kim and TJ Burch, dedicated to empowering young adults to recognize and prevent hazing. Through our work with WVU, City Drive, Sugar Studios LA and the NMB Foundation, the anti-hazing campaign grew into a broader mission of asking the student body to bear responsibility for protecting each other, leading the way for universities to combat hazing and other unsafe behaviors.
- Brand Identity
- Brand Positioning
- Customer Targeting/Segmentation
- Customer Journey Mapping
- Behavioral Change Marketing
- Overall Marketing Strategy
- Digital Media Strategy
- Creative Direction
- Content Creation & Graphic Design
- Digital Media Planning, Buying, & Analysis
- Print Media Planning & Purchasing
- Social Media & Community Management
- Community Outreach
- Video Production
- Air Service Development
- Website Design
- Marketing Collateral
- Analytics & Reporting
Listening & Learning
Before Anyone™ began crafting a campaign, our team traveled to West Virginia to gain valuable insight, spending a week on campus and meeting with (clockwise from left to right) Nolan’s parents, Kim and TJ Burch, Dr. Gordon Gee, President of WVU, Dr. Matthew Richardson, Director of the Center for Fraternal Values and Leadership, Sharon Martin, Vice President of University Relations, Michael Esposito, Executive Creative Director and Corey Farris, Dean of Students. We also met with fraternity and sorority members to better understand why hazing happens and its repercussions.
Focus Group Study
In order to ensure the campaign visuals and messaging would be well-received by WVU students, Anyone™ explored multiple image and typography styles and presented the assets to a focus group consisting of 13 students. The students were a mix of male and female, in and out of Greek life, and also represented different classes (ex. Freshman, Sophomore, etc.), states, and majors of study. By conducting AB testing, Anyone™ gleaned valuable insight on how to create a campaign that would resonate with its audience. The images presented here are examples of campaign art that did not end up being used.
The Would You… campaign is rooted in a natural inclination we have as humans to feel compassion and help others. Whether hazing or any situation with a peer in need, students don’t always feel empowered to vocalize or remedy wrongdoings they witness, especially at the cost of social reputations. The goal was to remind students what it means to be human: to feel empathy and be accountable for your actions. The campaign reminds one to be mindful and act responsibly, as this cycle of care is one they can foster for peers and themselves.
“Breathe, Nolan, Breathe.”
In addition to creating a comprehensive campaign to increase accountability across the WVU student body, Anyone™ worked alongside City Drive Group to also raise awareness of the unfortunate and untimely death of Nolan Burch. As executive producers of the Breathe, Nolan, Breathe documentary, Anyone™ provided graphics support, as well as determining key parties to be interviewed who would best communicate Nolan’s story.
The campaign launch and documentary release were strategically rolled out to maximize impact of the message and garner as much traction as possible. The assets created for this campaign have become part of WVU’s ongoing safety and wellness programs, providing students with resources to report hazardous student activities and empowering students to become advocates through training and education.