The wild success of the BYU’s latest marketing campaign is well documented. Here’s my great experience chasing after the coveted BYU50 box.
For those who have been living under a rock and haven’t heard of the BYU50 campaign, here’s a quick summary. During the month leading up to BYU’s season opener at UConn, the BYU marketing team has been distributing special boxes filled with BYU memorabilia across the country. Each day they place a box in a different state, generally going in alphabetical order. An hour or so before the drop, the marketing team tweets out which city it will be in, and a general timeframe. Then, when the box is placed, they tweet a picture of the box, which is usually placed near a local recognizable landmark. The first to find the box keeps it.
And these boxes aren’t full of run-of-the-mill BYU gear. Along with some tee-shirts, a jersey, and a pilon (I know, random), the crown jewel is a football signed by all the great BYU quarterbacks: Gifford Nielson, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Steve Sarkisian, Ty Detmer, John Beck, and Max Hall. You can see why pretty much all of the boxes have been scooped up in a matter of minutes.
When the campaign was announced, BYU message boards immediately started predicting when the boxes would be dropped in each state. Most agreed that the box would be dropped in Virginia (my home state) on August 23, so my family marked it on our calendar. Luckily, August 23 was a Saturday.
We live in the Washington D.C. area in northern Virginia where there is a large concentration of BYU alumni, so we were fairly sure the drop would be close by. We narrowed the drop location down to several major landmarks in the area: the Marine Corps War Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, and the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. We decided to divide and conquer. I would drop the wife and kids (ages 5, 4, and 2) off at the Marine Corps War Memorial and then drive down to the Air Force Memorial.
After weeks of waiting, the big day finally came. We were nervous, but excited about the prospect of nabbing the box. Being as it was a Saturday, I didn’t get in the shower until about noon, thinking that the drop would be around 1 or 2 like most of the other Saturday drops. When I got out of the shower, I looked at my phone (I was checking obsessively all morning) and saw a tweet that said the drop would be in only a half hour!
Virginia, your box will drop in 30 minutes-ish!! #BYU50
— BYU Cougars (@BYUCougars) August 23, 2014
Most other such tweets had given at least an hour’s warning, so we kind of freaked out. I yelled down the hall to my wife to make sure she and the kids were ready to go. I rushed to get dressed and we literally ran out the door.
Like any good BYU-centered event in Virginia, it was raining when I dropped off the wife and kids at the Marine Corps memorial. As we pulled up, we could see a handful of people anxiously mulling around in BYU gear. My wife looked at me and said, “I’ll run, I’ll fight, I’ll do whatever I have to to get that box for you!” Our secret weapon was our cute kids.
After I left to take up my post at the Air Force Memorial, my wife struck up a conversation with another woman in BYU gear who turned out to be Lavell Edwards’ granddaughter! My wife said she was incredibly nice, and that she said that if she won she would give all the gear to our adorable kids! Our secret weapon was working!
There was almost no one at the Air Force Memorial when I got there, but a few guys in BYU gear pulled up a few minutes after I did. I stayed in the car obsessively refreshing Twitter (despite having notifications turned on), but rolled my window down to chat with them as they got out of their cars to look around with their kids. It was pleasant, but there was definitely a competitive edge to the conversation.
“Thirty minutes-ish” turned into almost an hour before BYU tweeted out a picture of the box in front of the Pentagon–just blocks away from me! Why oh why did I choose the Air Force Memorial instead of the Pentagon?! All three of us at the Air Force Memorial sped away at about the same time. I may or may not have peeled out the tires in my 2006 minivan a few times. It’s a wonder we didn’t cause an accident.
Somehow I won the race from the Air Force Memorial to the Pentagon, mainly because the other two guys didn’t seem to know which part of the gigantic parking lot the box had been dropped at. I pulled up right after the winning family finished taking the picture for Twitter. I was the second one there! Ah!! There was about 2.5 minutes between BYU marketing tweeting out the picture of the box in front of the Pentagon and me pulling up to the site. It turns out no one but the winning family decided to stake out the Pentagon. I’m still kicking myself.
I got out of the car, congratulated the winning family, and straightway began giving one of the winners a hard time for wearing a red shirt to pick up the BYU50 box. Seriously, the family was nice as heck (they came straight to the Pentagon from cleaning the church for heaven’s sake), but it kind of irked me that only two of the five were even wearing BYU gear.
Within a few minutes, BYU fans began pouring in, many of whom my wife had seen at the Marine Corps memorial. The good majority of them were wearing BYU gear, but I was once against annoyed when I realized that most of the “contestants” did not even know what was in the box. Everyone was really nice, though, and I made sure to take a picture with the medium-sized group that lingered in the parking lot talking.
The guy who dropped the box took everybody’s address and shirt sizes and told us that BYU would be sending out t-shirts. I thought it was a cool gesture by BYU to throw us all a bone since we were all bummed about missing out on the box. We also learned from the guy who made the drop that they were doing a DC box “later that day.”
I assumed the DC box would be fairly soon, so I picked up my family at the Marine Corps memorial and we headed downtown. As we drove, a BYU tweet confirmed that a D.C. drop was happening later that afternoon. I figured it would be at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, since it is the easiest memorial to park at downtown, so we headed there first.
When we arrived at the Jefferson Memorial, we saw a car with a Utah license plate that looked a lot like the car of the guy who made the drop at the Pentagon, so we got really excited. As we entered the dome of the memorial, however, we didn’t see the box or anyone else in BYU gear. We stayed under the dome with ol’ Tom for a while before we realized the box wasn’t coming. So we headed back to the van in the pouring rain.
But we weren’t giving up. Soaking wet, we piled into the van and headed toward the mall (the big open field that goes from the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial, lined with monuments and museums). We circled the mall, hoping that the tweet would come in and tell us where to go. As we drove, the kids began to fall asleep. They had, after all, skipped nap time to go on this wild goose chase with their slightly obsessed dad. We finally headed home when we realized we had very little gas and my phone was running low on batteries (yes, it’s an iPhone).
I ran a few errands after I dropped off the family at home, and as I pulled up to the house the tweet came in saying that the D.C. box would be coming in “15-30 minutes.”
DC box drops in 15-30 mins!! #BYU50
— BYU Cougars (@BYUCougars) August 23, 2014
I kissed my wife and told her to eat dinner without me. She rolled her eyes, looking slightly annoyed but dutifully supportive. My iPhone died almost seconds after the warning tweet went out, so I grabbed my car charger and I headed back downtown, alone. When I got in the car I immediately plugged in my phone, but, as we all know, iPhones take a few minutes of charging to power on after dying. The phone started up right as I got downtown, and I quickly opened Twitter, only to find that the box been already been dropped and claimed! I turned the car around and headed back home.
While I felt slightly dejected, I had a huge smile on my face as I drove home in the rain. I met some great BYU fans, got a few free t-shirts, and–most of all–had a blast hopping from monument to monument with my family, hoping against hope that we would land the big prize. Even though we didn’t nab the box, we had a day full of priceless memories.