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Dixie State earns Silver Anvil Award of Excellence for establishing Trailblazer identity

Dixie State University received a Silver Anvil Award of Excellence from the Public Relations Society of America for its entry Blazing a New Brand, establishing the university’s Trailblazer athletic rebrand as one of the best-executed public relations campaigns in the nation this year.

Distributed during an awards ceremony on June 8 in New York City, the Silver Anvil award recognizes organizations that successfully addressed contemporary public relations issues with exemplary professional skill, creativity and resourcefulness, according to the society. Dixie State and Love Communications, the full-service advertising and communications agency that the university worked in partnership with to create the Trailblazer brand, were honored in the Reputation/Brand Management category for government agencies.

“Nearly all communication students examine Silver Anvil case studies to learn the best practices in the field of public relations. It is beyond humbling to know that the athletic rebrand at Dixie State will forever be ranked among the best of the best public relations campaigns in the nation,” Dixie State University Chief Marketing & Communication Officer Dr. Jordon Sharp said. “The most rewarding part of the experience has been the overwhelming support from students, community and alumni. We worked so hard to create an identity that was worthy of the rich history and future potential of Dixie State, and the Trailblazers story and symbolism has accomplished all we set out to do and more. We couldn’t be happier.”

With categories such as Community Relations, Crisis Communications, Global Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs, one Silver Anvil Award and up to three Silver Anvil Awards of Excellence are awarded in each category. NASA Johnson Space Center received the Silver Anvil in the Reputation/Brand Management category for its entry Year in Space: Communicating NASA’s Historic One-Year Mission from Space to Ground. Dixie State was the only Award of Excellence winner in the category. Honorees in other categories included Dell, Microsoft, DuPont, Starbucks, Carnival Corporation, KFC, Chase Bank, Whirlpool and Maytag.

“Our new identity has been very well received in all areas of the university and community. It’s very exciting to see. Now add on this award for the countless hours that went into the process, and it’s very validating,” Dr. Jason Boothe, Dixie State director of athletics, said. “All credit goes to Dr. Sharp and his incredible team for leading us through the process.”

To create the Trailblazer identity, the university and Love reviewed data collected over 10 years, administered an online survey to 5,000 participants, held more than 50 focus groups, evaluated 10 different possibilities and created concepts and imagery for the final three identities.

The resulting Trailblazer identity embodies the Dixie Spirit that is rooted in southern Utah pioneers’ legacy of hard work, perseverance, and commitment to one another and is paired with the bison, America’s original trailblazers. Trails created as bison stampeded across the country were adopted by Native Americans and pioneers as hunting and warrior paths and assisted with the migration out west. Dixie’s mascot, Brooks the Bison, is named after Dixie’s original trailblazer, Samuel Brooks, who spent the night on the steps in front of St. George Stake Academy on the eve of its opening in 1911 in order to be the first person to secure student status.

Once the brand was established, a reveal event built community-wide excitement for the new identity. Immediately following the reveal, more than 2,000 students, community members and alumni celebrated at a Food Fest on campus and proudly wore Trailblazers T-shirts.

That same night, Trailblazers signs were installed on St. George Boulevard lampposts, and by the next day, the Dixie State University campus had transformed. Brooks the Bison’s face could be seen from every corner of campus on billboards, windows, clothing, scoreboards and more.

As the week continued, students took selfies in photo booths while wearing bison hats, hooves and snouts and proudly holding up cutouts of DSU’s new athletic logos. Additionally, 25 Washington County elementary schools held assemblies and the attending students were given children’s books that explained the Trailblazers identity and history. The same books were sent to more than 60,000 homes in the region. The new nickname even caught the attention of the Portland Trail Blazers, with whom a “Twitter feud” ensued.

“The careful attention to detail and community involvement that were instrumental to the unveiling of the identity were key to its success, and I am humbled and honored that the Public Relations Society of America has recognized these efforts,” Dixie State President Richard B. Williams said. “The entire university community is so proud to be Trailblazers and own an identity that captures the essence of who we are as innovators, learners and teachers. The recognition makes the identity even much more special.”

To learn more about Dixie State University Marketing & Communication, visit umac.dixie.edu.