Unless you currently live on Mars (and even if you do), by now you know that the star of Loyola’s magical run to the Final Four is its team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt. She’s become an international sensation – and she’s even been integrated into the Final Four media programming this week in San Antonio.
When I worked at Butler during the 2010 and 2011 Final Fours, we had a similar asset that captured the nation’s heart: our live bulldog mascot Blue 2.
Obviously, there are many differences/challenges/opportunities between Sister Jean and our beloved Blue, but the message remains the same. Like Butler, Loyola has a viral sensation marketable asset connected with its university/basketball brand. The similarities are there. So, how can Loyola approach this challenge/opportunity when its plane lands in San Antonio on Wednesday afternoon?
“I was going from sun up to sun down, and then some,” said Butler’s favorite dog dad and marketing administrator, Michael Kaltenmark. “We tried to do every single media availability we could.”
And there were many. When Blue 2 requests came into sports info, we passed them on to Michael. When they came into university relations, they were passed on to Michael. When Blue needed to go outside, that task belonged to Michael. But he did have some help. In addition to recruiting student helpers over the years, Kaltenmark reported that Houston PD escorted Blue between media stops during the 2011 run to the final game.
“I rode with them everywhere,” he said. “If they needed to turn on the sirens, they’d do it.”
For the record, Loyola SID Bill Behrns told me Tuesday night that sports info is handling Sister Jean’s appearances. On top of the mountain of requests from all over the nation + television + radio + the NCAA media schedule, adding in the high demand of the 98-year-old is daunting. Especially if you’re the talk of the town, as Loyola and Butler both were.
Here are some thoughts for Loyola and Sister Jean, as relayed from Kaltenmark’s Final Four experiences with Blue 2:
- Kaltenmark: “They Need A Handler”
When we were in the 2010 Final Four just 5 miles from our campus, admittedly a lot of things fell through the cracks. Considering the sheer workload and the unique situation, that was to be expected. Butler had a great situation (and still does today) with Kaltenmark handling the bulldog mascot. The recommendation is for Loyola to assign someone to be the liaison for Sister Jean’s media schedule.
Obviously, a dog doesn’t speak and doesn’t have to know much about basketball. “We just had to look cute and do fun stuff,” Kaltenmark said. Sister Jean gives Loyola the advantage of being able to display the Loyola brand and be specific about messaging. Kaltenmark: “Sister Jean can get the Loyola brand out there. Taking our dog around was easy, she’s obviously more dynamic.”
- Licensing & Philanthropy
After the 2010 Final Four in Indy (editor’s note: I don’t care about the final halfcourt shot, that this shot didn’t go down was what hurt), Blue became a household name and the demand never ended. Sponsorship and licensing deals followed. Loyola and Sister Jean are already on this, but the recommendation is to take that newfound revenue and use a portion to make a difference in a way relevant to Sister Jean. For example, a portion of revenue proceeds from Butler’s live bulldog licensing goes to the school’s Live Mascot Program.
After a brief interview, Kaltenmark and I chatted and caught up a bit. About hoops. Those Final Four years. Loyola’s remarkable story. For decades, Butler and Loyola were in the same conference. The parallels between the two schools and their related marketing superstars are there. The sentiment in us that Loyola has inspired is that you’re blessed to be a small part of a team that makes a run like that.
“I watched it,” Kaltenmark said, “and I desperately want to do it again.”
Without a doubt.
He’s Got Jokes
Loyola grad Leslie David Baker is a Loyola alum. He’s better known as Stanley Hudson from The Office.