Behind every famous dog is a happy human. For Butler Blue III, also affectionately known as Trip, that happy human is Michael Kaltenmark, a Butler University marketing guru who has elevated this congenial English bulldog to a national sports icon. Kaltenmark, or “Pops” as his canine companion refers to him, is one of our picks as a Tech Trendsetter from Indiana. While finalizing his second “Big Dawgs Tour” with Trip to the Big East Tournament, we had a moment to sit down with the busy brand builder to find out what makes Trip tick – and how this Twitter-busy canine keeps surpassing social media benchmarks. It all started back in 2004 when another mascot’s handler/owner left campus to take another job. The dog went with her. With a void to fill, Kaltenmark jumped at the chance to take on the next mascot and pursue a different level of brand building. “I wanted to give him a distinct voice and personality by blogging for him—as him. Admittedly, it’s a little bit of my personality. I was channeling, but I tried to be true to the breed.” After Twitter came along, it was another opportunity to take the mascot to a new level for this small, private university in Indianapolis. Trip, the third in a series of English bulldogs, is now on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr, Foursquare, Pinterest and Snapchat (which students love). If there were a private club for bulldog mascots, it would include plenty of well-known colleges, including Jack from Georgetown University and Uga from the University of Georgia. (Trivia: The original Butler Blue name was selected in a contest with votes tallied.) When Butler (the university) hit it big in basketball (the Final Four), Kaltenmark made sure his mascot was in front of the cameras, including the center court national network shot at the close of one of the winning games. By then, national sportscasters were intimately referring to the dog by name and not just as the Butler mascot. For Kaltenmark, it’s been a fast ride of finding the right opportunities and strategic moments for Trip that help tell the Butler story. That means a Twitter connection to major influencers like John Green, a best-selling author from The New York Times who happens to be an Indiana native. Green is a voice that reaches high school students and prospective college applicants via his prize-winning and popular books. Trip now enjoys a celeb-style life with his donated Blue Mobile, access to the best wireless network when he travels and tweeting with his more than 11,000 loyal followers. Plus, he’s pampered on campus every day. He owns a tailored tuxedo to stylishly fit his bulldog build and has had his photo taken with former U.S. presidents.
Trip and Pops
Online, you can also request a paw-print signing from the “spokesdoggy” via an online form, order the children’s book from Butler’s bookstore and support the mascot program by ordering a PetBox filled with toys and treats. Kaltenmark may only be warming up when it comes to marketing this private gem of a university – with Trip’s help, of course. While a mascot can be just a symbol for many, in Kaltenmark’s hands, Trip has taken on a personality and brand that exemplifies this small school’s can-do spirit and benchmark for excellence. If you’d like to follow Trip on his East Coast tour from March 11 to March 16, you can find him pawing his tweets with Pops on Twitter @ButlerBlue3 and checking in with the hashtag #BigDawgsTour. (Disclosure: We loaned Trip a bunch of wireless devices for this year’s road trip, including a GoPro Hero 3+ and the iPhone 5s. Trip was already using a Verizon MiFi to stay connected to the 4G LTE network while on the road, which he reported did very well in the Appalachian Mountains.) For more Verizon Wireless news, subscribe via RSS feeds in the right rail. Photo credit