Posted: November 16, 2012 at 9:30 A.M.
by Grace Roberts and Christina Steward
In spring 2012, former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal came to The University of Alabama to work alongside students in creating a public service announcement supporting the LessThanUThink campaign.
Once known for using his size and strength on the court, the retired legend turned film director is now using his fame to endorse the student-generated campaign to teach college-age individuals about the dangers related to binge drinking.
“This dangerous binge drinking on college campuses has got to stop,” O’Neal said in a statement to The Century Council, an organization that promotes responsible drinking choices. “The best way to change this culture is to have the students address the issue face to face. I’m psyched to work on this project and firmly believe we can make a difference.”
LTUT is a national anti-binge drinking campaign created in 2009 by advertising and public relations students at The University of Alabama. LTUT’s message consists of humorous slogans that emphasize the negative social consequences of binge drinking among college-age individuals. By using humor, LTUT hopes these messages will resonate with students and get them to think twice before consuming another alcoholic beverage.
To heighten awareness about the campaign, the LTUT team looked to one of its sponsor organizations, The Century Council, which had begun a partnership with Shaquille O’Neal in 2011 to help combat binge drinking on college campuses.
In an effort to reach out to O’Neal for both his support and directorial skills, the LTUT team launched a social media campaign, “#GetShaq2UA,” to convince him to visit The University of Alabama’s campus and film a PSA.
After 16 days of marketing the “#GetShaq2UA” campaign, the students received their desired answer when Shaq tweeted “@LTUThink – I’m coming to ‘Bama to tape the spot re:binge drinking but not til 2012. Will u wait 4 me?”
The answer was “Yes!”
“Partnering with Shaq is a unique yet limited opportunity,” said Joy Hungate, The Century Council’s vice president of programs. “He saw an opportunity to put what he had learned at film director’s school into practice by working alongside college students to bring their voice to life by producing student-created videos addressing the serious issue of high-risk drinking.”
No stranger to the camera, Shaq has appeared in many ads during his career. This time Shaq stayed behind the lens, appearing only in a short cameo. The PSA was completely student-driven with Shaq lending his expertise in directing the PSA and designing of the set.
Delynne Wilcox, Ph.D., assistant director of health planning and prevention for The University of Alabama’s Student Health Center, believes the students’ ample involvement throughout the entire process of filming the PSA will translate well to the intended audience.
“It is a rare example of a PSA that is completely engineered by college students from the conceptualization of an idea all the way through to the finish, especially a PSA that is designed to reach young people,” said Wilcox. “It will be interesting to see how [this] PSA resonates with students.”
This peer-to-peer style in communicating its message is what has helped LTUT stand out from other anti-binge drinking campaigns. By adding the influence of a recognizable sports figure, the LTUT team hopes this PSA will attract students, and they will share it with friends via social media.
With this in mind, the LTUT students implemented a two-week campaign in conjunction with National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week (Oct. 22-26, 2012).
The LTUT team hosted events around the University of Alabama campus leading up to the launch of the Shaq PSA, which was released at a special red carpet event. During the event, team members distributed promotional items that linked to the PSA, which students were then able to view and share.
“The PSA will serve to show that there are new ways to tackle high-risk drinking on college campuses, and that if given a chance, students will step up to the plate and be part of the solution,” said Hungate.
Following the release of the PSA, The Century Council plans to continue highlighting the work accomplished by the students and their famous directorial mentor.
In addition to the LTUT PSA, Shaq directed Syracuse University’s “The Stupid Drink” campaign PSA and is currently working with students at Morehouse College to create a new communications campaign to fight high-risk drinking among African-American students.
“This new initiative will be another component of The Century Council’s student-generated college anti-binge drinking initiatives presently on various campuses across the country,” said Hungate.