Penn State THON, Penn State Vole

Penn State Vole performs on stage at Penn State THON on Sunday morning, Feb. 18, 2018.

In many captain and committee member interviews for Penn State’s THON, one question is commonly asked: If you could describe THON in one word, what would it be?

Public Relations Brand Development Captain Colleen McBride said when asked this question, she is at a loss for words, because THON can only be described as a feeling .

The feeling of walking into the Bryce Jordan Center for THON weekend, the feeling you get seeing the THON children’s smiling faces, or the feeling of pure joy seeing the total revealed on Sunday afternoon after year-long fundraising efforts — all moments indescribable for many THON volunteers.

The atmosphere of the Bryce Jordan Center and the aesthetic of the THON brand is a year-long process to create the most positive and motivating environment for THON dancers, families, people in the stands and even people live streaming THON from home.

From colors and fonts in the THON logo, to the lighting and music played in the Bryce Jordan Center, the magic is in the details.

Penn State THON 2018 Final Four

Romeo Rodriguez, age 5 of Elizabethtown PA, sits on his mother's shoulders during the final four hours of Penn State THON in the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday Feb. 18th, 2018

Brand development is a fairly new position within THON, which was what drew McBride (senior-advertising) to take charge and leave her mark within the THON brand.

“This was a really great opportunity to really mold this position for years to come,” McBride said. “[In advertising,] I study consumer behavior, where a lot of it is driven by brand perception. I love the nitty gritty details of how much a color can send a message to a viewer, and how much a word can send a message to a listener.”

McBride said she and her co-captain, Evan Young, work so well together with brand development because they both love to find the passion within the details .

As Public Relations Brand Development Captains, McBride and Young (senior-telecommunications) look at past THON brands and compare that to the brand as it is today. They try to maintain all the elements, such as tone, messaging and brand personality.

THON, Kirsten German and Audrey Lewis

Kirsten German, a Four Diamonds child who attends Shippensburg University, rides on the back of Audrey Lewis (junior-chemistry) who is part of Club Powerlifting and offering piggyback rides to dancers during THON in the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018.

“We always look at the mission and make sure that anything we say or aesthetics and colors that we decide on represents that mission to its core,” McBride said. “I think a lot of that is pulled from the experiences that families have with THON, and we draw inspiration from them and we combine it with our creativity.”

The THON brand is upheld through social media posts, graphic design, videos created by the production team and signs used during THON weekend, as well as other THON events throughout the year.

The Public Relations Committee’s theme for THON 2019 was “Capture the Magic,” which is what McBride, Young and the team worked to achieve.

“Production, graphic design, and photography, the very visual side of public relations, have done such a good job,” Young said. “We are surrounded by so many talented people on our committee — a team of artists and super creative people. I think they’ve done an incredible job helping us let people feel that ‘magic.’”

THON 2018 Line Dance

Dancer relation captains lead the line dance during THON 2018 at Bryce Jordan Center on Friday Feb. 16, 2018.

“Everything that Nike does is ‘Just Do It.’ Everything that we want to do is ‘FTK,’” Young said. “The brand really helps us establish our place in the philanthropic community of who we are, why we do it and how.”

The Entertainment Committee also plays a huge role in the aesthetics and environment of THON, as they create the atmosphere through music, performances, lighting and fun activities to engage with the crowds in the stands during THON weekend, as well as other THON events like 100 Days ’til THON and the THON 5K.

In the Bryce Jordan Center, the lighting is important to keep the mood bright and vibrant. A lot of pinks, blues, yellows and purples are used.

Entertainment Director, Mary Papandreas, said working with entertainment is great having some of the power in what music will be played because it’s great to see thousands of people in the Bryce Jordan Center singing along to one of her favorite songs .

THON, Nittany Lion line dance

The Nittany Lion performs the line dance with dancer relations captains during Penn State THON at the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018.

“We censor all of the music and we pre-screen all the songs the acts are going to be performing and make sure [the songs] are FTK,” Papandreas (senior-industrial engineering) said. “One of the coolest parts of THON is when you’re there it [kind of] brings it back to your childhood days and people love hearing those bops from the early 2000s.”

There are six DJs and two DJ coordinators on the Entertainment Committee who work throughout the year to collect new music and build playlists for different hours of THON.

Papandreas said THON 2019 will have over 90 live performances throughout the weekend, so a big portion of the weekend is taken up by those acts. Papandreas said a challenge she faced was reaching out to artists asking them to perform for free.

“When you ask acts to come perform THON weekend, you ask them to do it as a donation,” Papandreas said. “We have to explain to them our mission and why it’s so important that they donate their time and effort.”

Bands, dance groups and other special performances take place over the weekend, from local bands to Penn State student performances to mystery guests.

Penn State THON 2018 My Hero Zero

My Hero Zero rocks on stage at THON 2018 at Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday Feb. 17, 2018.

“Some [artists] are getting potentially thousands of dollars a night to play shows. We have to explain why they should give up [getting paid] and the experience they can provide,” Papandreas said. “That’s also one of the most rewarding parts when you get some new bands and new acts to come in and they realize the power and magic of THON weekend.”

Papandreas said the people she’s worked with through her THON experience at Penn State have driven her leading up to her final THON Weekend.

“When you’re answering your emails or going to your next [THON] meeting, you remember the kids and those little moments and the smiles brought to their faces THON weekend, especially through what entertainment it’s able to provide,” Papandreas said. “It’s priceless seeing one of the kids jam out to their favorite song or get to be a rockstar on stage.”


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