Campaign 2010

If internet memes can help elect a president, could they help convince the US men’s national team to take along certain players who’re on the borderline to make the cut for South Africa?

While we were on vacation last winter, my husband was looking at the buttons I had on my bag, and wondered aloud how cool it would be to pick some semi-random USMNT player and draw up a set of “I BELIEVE IN [player name]” buttons.

“But it’d have to be someone who’s on the bubble, someone who doesn’t get called in as much as the fans want,” he said.
“Kenny Cooper,” I said.

When we got home, I got to work. I thought about it for a while, and then came up with a bigger plan: Five campaign buttons, all based on political slogans, all championing the cause of rising MNT players. I’d send them out to people who asked to be on a mailing list, plus some Sam’s Army and American Outlaws jokers, each one mailed to coincide with a home World Cup Qualifying date. I picked out four players right away, deciding that the fifth would be determined based on who made some serious noise this summer.

I BELIEVE IN KENNY COOPER; click for bigger

I sent the first template off to Busy Beaver, and worked out packaging for it. Then they announced the roster for the US-Mexico game, which did not in any way involve Kenny Cooper. Whoops. Would people still dig it? Would people get that it’s not so much about the individual guys as it is the team and project as a whole?

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Once I started mailing these out, the verdict came in: They were a hit. I took the leftovers to Columbus and handed them out, much to the delight of the Dallas fans I encountered. Even Houston fans thought they were a hoot.

I’M JUST WILD ABOUT JOZY; click for bigger

For the next one, I sent out one I knew would be a smash–Jozy Altidore. As luck would have it, this one hit right when he got a hat trick at the US-Trinidad and Tobago match, making me look like a marketing genius.

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This one is my favorite of the series, largely because the slogan’s so corny.

KLJESTAN’S THE ONE; click for bigger

Third in the set: Sacha Kljestan. Once these hit the streets, he promptly set a new bar for audible profanity on ESPN2. Awesome!

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This one has the most elaborate packaging to date.

Each of the button mailings is packaged differently, using all kinds of ribbon, glitter pens, and card stock from Paper Source plus whatever cool stamps the Inman Square post office has at the time. All include the series number and my email address. The coolest part of this is sending them out and waiting to see who gets them when (the mailing list includes buddies across the country, as well as Japan and England).

Each player featured gets sent his own button, although I’ve not heard back from any of them about it. Altidore was kind of tricky, since he was on loan to one team but registered to another; I eventually decided just to send his out in care of Soccer House since I knew he’d be in camp this summer. I have no idea if US Soccer knows what I’m up to on this, either. If anyone there’s reading this, holla.

The project’s been such a hit that next spring, when the US is doing its warmup friendlies, I will be reprinting all five in the series, and almost certainly issuing a sixth. I may end up selling a set of six as a means to raise some extra scratch to spend in South Africa. The whole thing’s been great fun; it’s really satisfying to know everyone’s enjoying the finished projects as much as I enjoy the process.

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