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New Notre Dame spot airs during Ga. Tech game

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, September 6, 2006

The new Notre Dame institutional spot aired before halftime during the Georgia Tech game Saturday and features three Notre Dame alums who are “champions” in their fields – a much more secular approach than last year’s controversial “Candle” spot.

The 30-second commercial spins off the common Notre Dame catchphrase “Play Like a Champion Today” and showcases alums Mark Monahan, B.S. ’96; Judge Ann Williams, J.D. ’75; and Robert Gwadz, B.S. ’62 and Ph.D ’70.

Monahan is an emergency room physician, Williams sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals and Gwadz is a researcher at the National Institutes of Health.

The spot shows each of the alums in their workplaces with their own modified “Play Like a Champion Today” signs – heal, judge and research like a champion, respectively – then concludes with a quote from University President Father John Jenkins: “If we are afraid to be different … how can we make a difference in the world?”

Vice President for Public Affairs and Communication Hilary Crnkovich said the new commercial aims to show alumni leading in their own lives and integrating their Notre Dame education in their successes.

“The concept was one that had been presented to us last year,” Crnkovich said.

The new institutional spot follows last year’s controversial “Candle” ad, which featured a female high school student lighting candles in prayer at a church. At the conclusion of the commercial, the girl is shown holding an acceptance envelope from the University. She then turns to the sky to pray.

“Candle” sparked debate because some students and alumni felt it projected a far too narrow image of Notre Dame or suggested that faith alone could get an applicant into the University.

When asked whether the “Candle” spot would run again, Crnkovich said it was likely the new spot would run all fall.

“Every year, we try to produce a fresh spot,” she said. “Sometimes we choose to rotate in an old spot, but I think this year our intention is to use the ‘Play Like a Champion’ spot.”

Senior Sara Woolf labeled the spot “a big improvement” from last year’s commercial.

“I felt that last year’s ad didn’t really show what Notre Dame is about,” she said.

And showing what Notre Dame is about is exactly what the University hopes to achieve.

Notre Dame football is not only prime time television, Crnkovich said – it is also prime time for the University to market itself to a national audience.

In addition to the new institutional spot, Crnkovich said the University has produced “seven one-minute vignettes that focus on different academic and research areas of excellence at the University. These vignettes are treated, in a sense, as one minute news stories that will highlight these areas.”

She said the University’s partnership with NBC enables this opportunity for additional media exposure, allowing the vignettes to air during regular commercial time.