Local students design Wolves promotion with FOX's Creative U

Published Oct. 29, 2013 5:00 a.m. ET

MINNEAPOLIS -- A short FOX Sports North promo caused Kelsey Batkiewicz to do a double-take Monday.

It wasn't the live wolf slinking across her television screen that startled the University of Minnesota graduate. It was the fact that she and several former classmates were the brains behind the commercial's creation.

"I was like, 'I did that,'" Batkiewicz told FOXSportsNorth.com. "I met that wolf."

As part of FOX's Creative University initiative, Batkiewicz and a handful of other journalism and mass communication students spawned the idea for the Timberwolves' "Wolves Are Coming" promotional campaign. The team and FOX Sports North have been poking the Twin Cities market with teasers throughout the preseason, including a 10-second YouTube clip featuring the canine in question and images of Minnesota's cold, uninviting winters that mark the bulk of basketball season.

That was the central theme Batkiewicz and the rest of her project group came up with during a strategic communication class in the fall of 2012. Several groups in the class pitched different ideas to Creative U overseer Christina Appleton, and the "Wolves Are Coming" idea won out.

So Appleton and FOX, in turn, took the idea to the NBA franchise. After some tweaking and additional creative work, FOX Sports North and the Timberwolves incorporated the multi-platform campaign into their 2013-14 advertising efforts.

"It allowed us to get some real experience and get a lot more hands-on," said Batkiewicz, who graduated in December 2012, shortly after completing the project. "You can only learn so much in a classroom setting, but we were really able to work with others and real-life clients and develop people skills. That's what you really get to learn."

Starting Wednesday -- the day of Minnesota's opener against Orlando -- fans will begin seeing full television spots and Twitter and Facebook posts using the imagery and the hashtag #WolvesAreComing. The finished product isn't exactly what the students came up with, but it is rooted in their brainstorming efforts.

"We challenged the students to think about our broadcasts of Timberwolves games on FSN and the passion fans have for the team and for the players, and localize their ideas in a way that's unique to Minnesota," Appleton said. "We told them to think about basketball being a winter sport that's played indoors, what our brand is and what the Timberwolves were looking for."

Each group in Dr. John Eighmey's Journalism 4259 class worked throughout the 2012 fall semester, looking at the Timberwolves' current marketing efforts and conducting market research. Batkiewicz's bunch wasn't all that interested in basketball -- she's a self-proclaimed "hockey girl" -- but decided they'd try to be as off-the-wall and creative as possible.

Their proposal's central tenet was to play off the harsh, cold conditions that come with Minnesota winters. "What better way to warm up than to go to a basketball game?" Batkiewicz asked.

Her group wasn't the first to have its work reach local airwaves and websites. Creative U is affiliated with about 20 schools across the nation, and FOX's goal is to make every winning idea come to fruition, Appleton said.

Students at Southern California came up with the Los Angeles Kings' "Join the Kingdom" pre-Stanley Cup PR push in 2012. Missouri students were behind the Big 12's "Every Game Matters" slogan after the conference dropped to 10 teams in 2010.

The Timberwolves campaign's images and video would include players in a snowy setting "doing wintery things," Batkiewicz said. But FOX and the Timberwolves decided to take it one step further.

Film crews captured a live wolf lurking in a local gymnasium, then overlaid images of Timberwolves game footage and a digital rendering of Ricky Rubio's back to create the appearance of a snow-covered landscape within a basketball setting.

Batkiewicz, meanwhile, is using her advertising degree in jobs with nonprofit group Feed My Starving Children and her alma mater.

And while hockey remains her favorite sport, she'll be attending a few more Timberwolves games this winter.

"I'm definitely more interested in basketball than I was before," Batkiewicz said. "Me and my dad are definitely going to get out to a few games for the Timberwolves. Now that I'm definitely more familiar with them, I want to see how the season will go, for sure."

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