Buckeye fanatic Danny Brodson, a fourth-year in business, doesn’t want to admit how much of his wardrobe came from Ohio State athletics giveaways.
From trapper hats to Nike windbreakers, Brodson approximates that giveaways make up 60 percent of his total wardrobe and 95 percent of the T-shirts he wears.
Brodson still remembers his first football game. It was the start of his time in the Ohio State fandom — a journey that began with Brodson scouring Ohio State social media accounts to find the giveaways for the week and has resulted in several TV cameos and a passion for free Buckeye merchandise.
“I started following Instagram accounts like Block O and all the different sports that I wanted to go to,” Brodson said. “I’d go to these games, and it was just a really good time that kept me occupied.”
Senior Associate Athletics Director and Chief Marketing Officer Tracy Hedrick is at the core of Brodson’s experiences during his four years at Ohio State. In fact, when people ask what Hedrick does for a living, she likes to say she’s part of the memory-making business.
Long before becoming chief marketing officer, Hedrick attended Otterbein University. While working at the Otterbein student radio station, studying speech communication and broadcasting, she and her friends began organizing shows for local bands.
It was her introduction to the “memory-making business,” and since her days at Otterbein, Hedrick has worked at Live Nation and was most recently the senior director of sales and promotion within Ohio State athletics prior to her current role.
“Having a freshman at Ohio State coming to their first football game and sitting with Block O or the student section, it’s a first, and it’s so amazing to be part of a team of people that are hosting events that make such an impact on people’s lives,” Hedrick said.
From promoting sporting events on social media to partnering with Coca-Cola and Nike, Hedrick and her team are tasked with everything from maximizing attendance at each event to making each in-game experience memorable with unique giveaways.
“With content, there’s so much of it, it’s how it gets repurposed, and make sure that everyone is seeing content,” Hedrick said. “You have different groups of people that are experiencing the brand. You have students, alumni and you have Buckeye Nation holistically. It has evolved with the times with TikTok, which is so wildly popular, [Instagram] Reels, so it’s all ever-evolving, especially in technology and social media.”
When it comes to giveaways, Hedrick polls students within the marketing department for their take on what would be most popular on campus. One of Hedrick’s favorite giveaways features a T-shirt with a caricature of women’s volleyball head coach Jen Flynn Oldenburg, after Oldenburg’s 50th career win. Oldenburg is posing next to a Formula 1 car that has the number “50” on it after she notched that milestone against Indiana on Oct. 1, 2022.
The T-shirt was unveiled to Oldenburg in practice the week leading up to the giveaway against Rutgers on Oct. 15, 2022, and Oldenburg recounts being taken aback by the reveal.
“I remember just standing there in shock going, ‘What is happening?’” Oldenburg said. “Why is my face on this shirt, with a race car? I was just so confused, and everybody was dying laughing and having a great time with it. I don’t know that I had a reaction.”
The team took a liking to the shirt, wearing it in warmups before the Rutgers game last fall and the spring exhibition match against Louisville April 8. It’s also a piece of apparel that Oldenburg said her daughter and Buckeye fans alike wear to matches frequently as a nod to the former USA National Team member and USA Volleyball Girls Youth National Team coach.
Brodson said he got a photo with Oldenburg wearing the infamous shirt after a game.
“I love JFO. Jen Flynn Oldenburg is one of my idols. She’s so smart,” Brodson said. “The redcoat came up and yelled at us saying, ‘You got to get back,’ and she’s like, ‘No, no, these kids are taking a picture of me. It’s my shirt I get to take a picture with them.’”
Brodson proudly took on the title of “flag guy” within university circles. When he began attending hockey games after fall break of his freshman year, Brodson became attached, going to games on Friday and Saturday nights. This was where he acquired his script Ohio flag that appears on TV in events ranging from football to women’s volleyball.
“It’s a great way to stand out in the crowd and ESPN loves picking it up and all the photographers like it,” Brodson said. “I go to every sporting event, my same script Ohio flag and I’ve brought it to different countries and different places to take pictures with it, so it’s been a really cool time thanks to Ohio State athletics and the free flag that they gave.”
As Brodson is set to graduate in May, he has too many stories to count. In Hedrick’s work, she is often privy to Brodson’s sentiment — a part of the job that she describes as “incredibly rewarding.”
“I talk to people who have gone to concerts or sporting events, and they hear where I work, and they just automatically tell me about their experience,” Hedrick said. “That’s awesome. It’s unsolicited and I love it. I love hearing about people’s experiences and often I might have been there, but didn’t know them. I could’ve been standing on a completely different side of the arena, or the stadium, but it’s making those connections.”