“Tartan Epidemic” Campaign Infects UCR Students with Highlander Spirit

Viral marketing campaign uses tweets, videos to promote student involvement

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — Students, staff and faculty around the University of California, Riverside have been infected with the “Tartan Epidemic.” But not to worry; the only thing that is viral about this epidemic is the marketing.

The Tartan Epidemic is a viral marketing campaign designed to promote student involvement in campus activities and increase attendance at UCR home basketball games. Created through a partnership between the HUB, the Office of Student Life, Intercollegiate Athletics and Housing, Dining and Residential Services, it capitalizes upon the recent surge in popularity of zombie and apocalyptic movies by using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to spread warnings about an epidemic of Highlander spirit grabbing hold of the campus

“We purposefully didn’t explain the campaign because the mystery is important,” said Tonantzin Oseguera, assistant dean of students. “We wanted to do something different to get students attention.”

It began in late December with a series of anonymous tweets the warned about the “Tartan Epidemic,” with tongue-in-cheek messages such as “WARNING: Facepaint reportedly seen near the HUB, stay away for fear of contagion” and “WARNING: Original reports of infection show that Scotty Highlander is reportedly ‘Patient Zero.’” The account, which uses the hashtag and name “tartanepidemic,” is posted to two or three times a day.

students walking in

UCR students “infected” by school spirit line up to get raffle tickets at the “Quarantine Zone” event on January 16. Photo by Ross French

A series of videos were then posted featuring students getting questioned by unnamed “officials” about the epidemic and their role in its spread across the campus. Students have also been receiving “infected” cards that invited them to the “Quarantine Zone,” a party at HUB 302 on January 16. The event was a pep rally that featured the campus’ mascot, Scotty Highlander, the Hylander Hype student rooting group, the Highlander Girls, and Men’s Head Basketball Coach Jim Wooldridge, as well as a raffle and free pizza. The highlight was a short film that told the story of the last person on the UCR campus without school spirit.

“Imagine a zombie movie where one man is left alive, but instead of zombies, he’s running from crazy fans in blue and gold face paint,” said Adam R. Daniels, student organization and orientation advisor  who conceived and directed the film.

Josue Zozaya, a senior biological sciences and music major from San Dimas and vice president of Hylander Hype, said that the campaign has been a lot of fun, but the goal is a serious one.

“Continuing to build campus spirit is extremely important,” Zozaya said. “We are a very diverse campus, but despite our differences the one thing that we have in common is that we are all Highlanders.”

“Everywhere I look there is more and more reason to be proud of being a Highlander, with more and more people sharing that enthusiasm,” he added. “I really do think the ‘infection’ is spreading, but unlike the flu, it’s a bug that you want to catch.”

The campaign had the misfortune to peak at the same time as a nationwide flu epidemic. Oseguera said there was a great deal of effort to make the Tartan Epidemic campaign very “gimmicky” in order to not confuse people or cause alarm about flu outbreaks or other ailments.

“We did give that a lot of thought and wanted to make sure that people know that this intended to be a fun campaign designed to raise the campus’ spirit,” she said.

Archived under: Inside UCR, , , , , , ,

Top of Page