A savvy marketing idea that mingled Nebraska fan Gabrielle Union, her film “Bring it On” and Runza helped Husker alumna Janey Malcolm score a social media success.
Knowing that Union and her husband/former NBA star Dwyane Wade were scheduled to attend an Omaha event on Sept. 27, Malcolm hustled to get a custom, baby-sized Runza cheerleading uniform crafted for the couple’s baby girl, Kaavia.
The uniform — modeled after the cheer outfit worn by Union in “Bring it On” — was successfully placed in the couple’s hotel room thanks to a media partner. A Sept. 27 Instagram post of Kaavia wearing the green, yellow and red Runza outfit took off, piling up nearly 700,000 likes on the social media channel.
The Nebraska Alumni Association sat down with Malcolm to talk about the success and how her days at the university prepared her for a career.
What is your role at Runza?
I am the marketing coordinator at Runza. I’m one of three members on the marketing team, so we run lean and mean. I was fortunate enough to land the job right out of college and have valued every second of my time here. As a Nebraska-native, who wouldn’t love to work for the people that make the official sandwich of the state?
What prompted the idea to create a “Bring it On” Runza outfit? When did you come up with it and how long did you have to implement it?
Runza is heavily involved with the TeamMates mentoring program, and we host a fundraiser each year with a percentage of sales all day being donated to TeamMates. When word got out that Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade would be on the special panel at the annual TeamMates Gala on Sept. 27 in Omaha, we immediately started brainstorming for unique and creative merchandise for both of them as well as their young daughter, Kaavia.
Gabrielle is a die-hard Nebraskan and we knew she was a Runzatic (aka a Runza fanatic) from previous interviews and visits to Husker games. With “Bring It On” being a breakout role for Gabrielle, and the Clovers cheerleading team uniform sporting the Runza colors, it just made sense. I’m a massive fan of the movie “Bring It On” and thought it would be a fun way to leverage both her career and hometown nostalgia.
I worked with an Etsy shop to implement the physical sewing of the uniform, and all-in-all the whole thing came together in a little over one week. We also created “GBR — Go Big Runza” T-shirts for Gabrielle and Dwyane and included a card for the family.
How did you get the outfit in her hands?
Because of the relationship between Runza and TeamMates, our marketing director, Becky Perrett (also a Nebraska alumna), asked TeamMates if we could place some PR items in Gabrielle and Dwyane’s hotel room. They came through, so we were able to ensure they would get anything we made.
What was your reaction when you saw the post on social media?
One of my good friends, who knew I had worked on the project, sent me Gabrielle’s post shortly after it went up. I think I audibly gasped, and I don’t think I stopped smiling for 24 hours. This was a big win for our brand, and we felt very lucky that they posted about us. I was also on my way to attend the TeamMates Gala that evening and got the opportunity to meet Gabrielle and Dwyane, which was the icing on the cake.
What kind of response did Runza receive?
Thanks to Gabrielle and Dwyane’s gracious posting of Kaavia in the outfit on their social media accounts, we have received a lot of national exposure, which is huge for us. As a regional chain, it was amazing to know our logo was being spread to their collective 30 million Instagram followers and 12 million Twitter followers, plus all other news outlets and celebrity personalities that gave a like, comment or retweet for the posts. We even made it on E! News. Traffic to our social media accounts and website skyrocketed over the weekend and we gained a good chunk of followers on all platforms. Between this excitement and ESPN’s College Game Day, it was a great day and weekend in Runza-Land.
Did any specific class prepare you for this moment?
I was an advertising/public relations major and had an incredibly positive experience with the College of Journalism. I truly believe I was learning from the best of the best. Each of my professors pushed me creatively and I attribute many of my professional skills to their influence in my life through my four years in the college. I’m very thankful for my time at the university and in the College of Journalism as both sent me into the real world with the tools and mindset necessary to succeed.