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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

While the Gators were busy dismantling the Buckeyes and climbing to the top as football national champions last year, UF's television spot was also beating its peers in terms of diversity.

In a study of the 43 university television advertisements aired during the 2006-2007 bowl season, researchers at the University of Alabama found that UF's TV spot conveyed diversity better than other institutions' ads.

"UF was absolutely an exception and, if I had to say, was one of the best in the country, frankly, in showing diversity," said Michael Harris, a University of Alabama assistant professor who lectures on higher education and co-authored the study.

Harris said the other ads tended to exclude minorities, and if minorities were included in the commercials, they were usually shown as token members of a larger, predominantly white group.

He said the other author of the study, University of Alabama assistant professor of higher education Brian Bourke, would present the results today at the American Educational Research Association's conference in New York.

Harris said when he and Bourke saw UF's ad, they were impressed by the diversity of race, ethnicity, age and profession. The ad features a series of professionals switching between the phrase "Go Gators" and expressions such as "Go write the great American novel."

It showed that "the university was open to creating greatness in all the different ways," he said.

Dan Williams, UF's marketing director, said that is the main purpose of UF's Gator Nation branding campaign: to show that The Gator Nation is everywhere and making contributions to every part of society.

Williams said diversity is an important factor in creating a TV spot, but it's not the only one.

"We don't try to drill down into that too far," he said. "We don't want to say to somebody, 'We want X number of African-Americans and X number of Latinos and all that.'" Last year, UF's total enrollment included about 8 percent black students and about 11 percent Hispanic.

Perhaps what made UF's ad seem more diverse than other universities' ads is a different approach, Williams said.

Most university commercials look the same - shots of the campus, groups of students walking and talking and scenes that appear staged, he said.

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Williams said UF took a different approach by featuring individuals, and he thought this type of commercial was more powerful.

"I'm beginning to see other universities doing spots closer to ours and getting away from the traditional university-type advertising," he said. "It's flattering to have other major universities start to duplicate some of the stuff we're doing."

He said the idea came from UF's ad agency, Fletcher Martin, an Atlanta-based firm.

Andy Fletcher, president and CEO of Fletcher Martin and a UF alumnus, said he chose to take UF's ad in a new direction because UF is fundamentally different from every other university.

"We create Gators," Fletcher said. "No one else, in fact, creates what we create."

He said the ad's diversity may look forced, but it really isn't. There's a bond that connects Gators of any age, race or profession, he said, and that connection overcomes all the other differences.

"It identifies people for the rest of their lives," he said.

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