To achieve viral video fame is one thing. To capitalize on that fame, financially and otherwise, is another matter entirely. A trio of 2010 graduates from Oregon – Michael Bishop, Jamie Slade and Brian McAndrew – know what it’s like to have achieved both.
In the fall of 2009, the three roommates and journalism majors created several weekly comedy shorts for the DuckU student television station under the collective name “Supwitchugirl.” One of them, “I Love My Ducks! (I Smell Roses),” was a shamelessly goofy, hip-hop ode to an Oregon football team that wound up winning the Pac-12 title and earning a Rose Bowl berth.
“It was literally just us being, ‘This will be fun,’ ” Bishop said over the phone from Beaverton, OR, where he works as a social media copywriter on the Nike account for Team Epiphany, a New York City-based marketing firm. “We were making music videos every week. I think that was the fourth one.”
Because of a brief flap with the university’s administration over unauthorized use of the Oregon Duck mascot, the music video exploded in popularity. Locals news stations were knocking at the door of their apartment, and their individual Facebook feeds started blowing up. Today, the video boasts over 1.4 million views on YouTube.
Perhaps more important is the long-term name recognition that the video created. Prior to the 2009 Civil War matchup with Oregon State, “I Love My Ducks” t-shirts became a big seller in Eugene. As of last December, more than 80,000 of the shirts have been sold in partnership with the UO Duck Store, with the group receiving $2 per t-shirt sold as well as a percentage of sales of shot glasses, window decals, water bottles and other branded gear. What’s more, it spawned a whole line of “I Love My…” spin-off gear at other universities, high schools and even at the NFL (although the group does not receive royalties for the spin-off gear).
It also gave the trio a post-college financial cushion, one that allowed them to pay off some student loans, travel the world and play the stock market. Just as their bank accounts grew, so did their reputations.
In September 2010, Supwitchugirl released a follow-up track, “I Love My Ducks (Return of the Quack)” that took a big step up in the overall quality department.
Ironically, after drawing the ire of the Oregon athletic department the previous fall, administrators were happy to contribute to “Return of the Quack.” Supwitchugirl was given access to the field at Autzen Stadium and got to feature the school marching band and the Ducks’ cheerleaders. They also got a surprise cameo in the form of former Oregon QB Joey Harrington.
“Jamie knew someone who knew Joey Harrington, who said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it,’ ” Bishop said. “He just showed up to Jamie’s apartment one day. It was really surreal, because it was someone we all grew up idolizing.”
Three-and-a-half months later, at the conclusion of an undefeated Ducks regular season, the trio found themselves on stage in Glendale, AZ, at a pep rally prior to Oregon’s 2011 BCS title game tilt with Auburn, performing the songs that had turned into rallying cries. And the ride didn’t end there. If anything, they were just on the cusp of reaping the rewards from their viral video fame.
“It’s only because of that video that I am where I am,” said Bishop (middle in photo above). “It helped us make so many connections, and it was a crash course in business, law and trademarks. We learned a ton.”
Prior to the release of the first “I Love My Ducks,” Bishop was a magazine journalism major facing the “What am I going to do after I graduate?” crisis. He wasn’t savoring the idea of working in the newsroom of a small newspaper or TV station. The video opened new doors for him, starting with an post-graduate internship at Nike that eventually led to his current job with Team Epiphany.
His band members also struck while the iron was hot. Slade (right) is now a video producer at the Boulder, CO, offices of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, an advertising and design agency. Among the campaigns he’s worked on in the year-and-a-half he’s been there are Applebee’s “Lunch Decoy” and Best Buy’s “Gifts That Give.”
McAndrew (left) has had a similarly video-heavy, post-graduate experience. He spent early part of 2011 in Sierra Leone volunteering with Worldwide Arts for Youth (WAYout), a nonprofit that supports conflict-affected youths through art and digital media, and directing videos for local musicians. Afterward, he was hired to do audio and visual work for 72andSunny, a Los Angeles-based advertising firm – his boss, as fate would have it, is also an Oregon grad – and recently headed back to Sierra Leone for another prolonged visit.
Those hoping for another shamelessly goofy music video from the trio might be waiting for a while, and not just because of the distance they’re separated by.
“The ‘college rap’ game is kind of played out,” Bishop said. “Every school has something now, whether it’s dictated by the athletic department or students coming up with something.”
Which isn’t to say that the ideating that started in 2009 has petered out; far from it, in fact. Bishop, Slade and McAndrew are still bantering ideas back and forth for future Supwitchugirl productions, constantly adding to a Google Doc full of ideas. They had something in the works last year if Oregon made it to the BCS title game, only to be thwarted after an upset loss to Stanford in November.
They might get another chance if second-ranked Oregon remains perfect for the rest of the season. Another chance for three friends and roommates to show people that, despite their viral video fame and all the windows that were opened because of it, one thing remains unchanged: They still love their Ducks.