by Eric Sloss
Sparked by Sarah’s recent appointment as a board member of Sojourner House, a faith-based rehabilitation facility for addicted women, we wanted to create an enjoyable fundraising project for this important nonprofit. So we created Obviously Tomlin as a way to engage the public in a charming charitable experience throughout the Steelers season.
It all started after a Steelers pre-season game. I could not help but hear Coach Mike Tomlin’s use of the word obviously. He uses it as a way to emphasize a point. But, sometimes he will say a phrase like, “Obviously, Pouncey has a knee, Bell has an elbow.” Well, obviously Pouncey does have a knee, but Coach means the player has a knee injury. He forgets words in the context of sports nomenclature. Tomlin’s cadence is epic. He uses obviously to change the tone and rhythm of a point and his mood.
I’m in the word business, right? At Shift, we focus on language, creating new content for various clients. We also created a technology product that analyzes large amounts of text called WordFabric, a language algorithm platform for content creators. We would ask people to donate to Sojourner House every time Coach uses the word – obviously. The fundraising exercise is less about Coach’s delivery yet raising the awareness of how people use words, especially in the context of sports and our beloved Steelers. Each season a new charity would be selected to benefit.
Pledges would be taken through www.ObviouslyTomlin.com after each game of the season. For example, Sally pledges $5 per obviously for the week 1 game. We would use WordFabric to scan the post-game news conference transcript and pull out how many times the word “obviously” is used. Pledges then turn into donations and the corporate sponsor of the week matches the amount.
Also, throughout the season we would play fun games with matching corporate sponsors asking the public to listen for other words used during the season. For example, we will ask the public to listen to a radio broadcast and every time host Tunch Ilkin says the words “play action pass” a corporate sponsor will match the first donation.
We had a contact at the Steelers who said they would present it to the public relations team. We crossed our fingers and built the site; We had Sojourner House’s approval.
And then the Steelers played the Titans for the first regular season game.
The score: Titans 16, Steelers 9. The Steelers looked sloppy in a lopsided game. Coach Tomlin’s demeanor on the sideline looked miserable. Soon after the game we heard from our Steelers contact saying that it was the worst time to present this to him and he recommended we find another project to work on.
We wondered…what if they won?