THON Removes Official Name from Canning Materials
As canning materials for this year’s first THON canning trip began to make their way into the THON office and be distributed to organizations preparing for the weekend’s canning trips all over the mid-state region, the specific changes THON had earlier announced would be coming were seen for the first time, and they weren’t what many people were expecting.
Last week, THON Public Relations Overall Jony Rommel told Onward State that on this year’s batch of canning materials, the phrase “Help Kids Fight Cancer” would replace “Help Kids With Cancer” and that the fundraising materials would now feature logos from both THON and Penn State. At the time, Rommel told Onward State that the goal was to make the materials more immediately recognizable to the general public.
What was not announced last week, and what the Greek community was surprised to learn today, was that on canning signs and can wraps, the official name “IFC-Panhellenic Dance Marathon” has also been substituted for the more colloquial THON, which is now represented with the official shutter-print logo.
Onward State contacted Interfraternity Council President Max Wendkos, who said that he was not made aware of the change until he began receiving text messages this afternoon from people in the Greek community who had seen the new signs.
When asked this evening about the removal of THON’s official name from the canning materials, Rommel again explained that it was part of an effort to simplify the canning materials and make the marketing more immediately recognizable to the public. “THON is what most people refer to the IFC-Panhellenic Dance Marathon as.”
Wendkos says that Rommel’s explanation is correct, but that the explanation’s truth doesn’t make the change any less disappointing. “Greeks recognize that THON has grown much larger than the Greek community,” said Wendkos, “and they are happy about that because if not it wouldn’t raise as much money as it does today and we wouldn’t be able to help as many families.”
“With that being said,” Wendkos continued, “it’s definitely a bit of a slap in the face to see the namesake of the proudest tradition shared by Penn State Greek organizations removed from these marketing materials.”
THON Overall Kirsten Kelly reiterated that THON’s decision to substitute the organization’s official name with the THON shutter-print logo was made to maximize the effectiveness of the canning material. “We were looking at how we could most effectively grab the donors’ attention and communicate which group was raising money, and our logo is the way to do that,” said Kelly. She noted that the official name is still used on the solicitation cards, which are seen close-up and not from a distance, as canning signs most often are.
Kelly said that last week’s general release regarding the updated canning materials did not include an announcement about the removal of the official name because the THON overall committee was “excited to share the new look with everyone because we do believe it will be more effective and it’s not about the use of the formal name, it’s about the effectiveness of the poster.”
Kelly also said that making sure THON participants also knew that last year’s canning materials were prohibited was a major impetus for last week’s release as well.
“There wasn’t a reason behind not drawing attention to [the removal of the official name],” said Kelly. “We wanted to make sure people knew about the rule.”
The removal of THON’s official name from the canning materials is just the latest incident in a year that has seen an emerging rift between the Greek community and the nation’s largest student-run philanthropy which it spawned.
“I’m not interested in battling with THON,” said Wendkos, “but their decisions make it very tough on Greek leaders that were chosen to represent the interests of every member of every Greek chapter.”
“This year in office has taught me that there doesn’t seem to be any level of disappointment that I can have that is really going to matter to them,” Wendkos said. “I’m tired and I’m exhausted and I just wish they would consider the interests of one of their largest stakeholders.”
Panhellenic Council President Sara Linkosky echoed Wendkos’ concerns, saying in an email statement she was “disappointed to hear that the promotional canning materials for THON 2011 do not use the name ‘IFC/Panhellenic Dance MaraTHON.'”
Linkosky also said that she was disappointed neither Max nor she were notified about the change.
“I have felt positively about my relationship with the members of the THON overall committee and I would have expected that if they did not ask our opinion on the issue, that they would have at least notified us of the change prior to the release of the canning materials.”
Another, less controversial change to the canning signs was also made. The Nittany Lion logo head was removed to mitigate possible future risk of a trademark claim by Penn State Athletics and as a part of the greater movement to simplify the canning materials and the organizational branding used on them.
A few weekends ago at Penn State’s Homecoming parade, THON revealed its 2010 theme: Together Without Limits. As an outsider, these developments are outlining the irony of that phrase.