Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on May 1, 2020.

Safer with Sasquatch

Bigfoot is a big hit as the face of a wildfire safety campaign in Oregon
 

BY ANGELO VERZONI

Fire safety officials in Oregon have enlisted the help of one of the region’s best-known creatures for their latest wildfire safety campaign: Sasquatch, a silhouetted version of whom graces a wide range of campaign promotional materials.

The hairy, mythical beast is believed to roam the forests of the Pacific Northwest, and it stands to reason that the creature—also known as Bigfoot—would support efforts to keep fire out of its shaggy wildland habitat. So far, the campaign seems to be working. Responses to the Bigfoot branding have been positive and plentiful, say fire officials, who are gearing up for the creation of more Bigfoot-themed content and products throughout 2020.

“I don’t think any of us thought this campaign would be as successful as it has been,” Stephanie Stafford, a fire prevention coordinator with the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office, told NFPA Journal in March. “I knew Bigfoot was a popular character, but I didn’t think our campaign would be so popular that we would be receiving requests from the public for t-shirts and other products.”

For 2020, the state has budgeted funds for creating poster and t-shirt designs associated with the campaign, Stafford said. Its plan for the year also includes getting the campaign’s imagery on billboards, airport advertising, email signatures, and cellphone wallpapers.

Launched in the spring of 2019, the campaign was born out of an idea that struck Stafford after she came across an image of Sasquatch on social media. She realized it would be a perfect spokesperson for wildfire safety, just like Smokey Bear—two furry critters set on protecting their homes from human-caused wildfires. “I made the connection that wildfires occur where Bigfoot lives, and that creates a perfect opportunity to build awareness around fire prevention in the wildland/urban interface,” Stafford said.

While Bigfoot’s link to wildland fire may be new, his brand appeal was already well established. In 2006, for example, the Wisconsin-based beef jerky maker Jack Link’s launched an advertising campaign that featured the beast as the company’s quasi-spokesperson; describing the strategy as wildly successful would be an understatement. In the year following the release of its “Messin’ with Sasquatch” campaign, Jack Link’s saw a nearly 400 percent jump in media impressions, according to the PRNEWS Group, an online source for public relations and communications news. The message was clear: folks dig Bigfoot.

Stafford and her colleagues hope to capitalize on that fact. Early campaign images, which were mostly used on social media, featured a shadowy Bigfoot strolling through the woods with taglines like “Believe in fire safety” and “Prevent wildfires … leave only footprints.” Within days of the campaign’s launch, the social posts had generated tens of thousands of views, thousands of likes and shares, and were flooded with positive comments like “Love love love these” and “Even Bigfoot has a job.”

While those numbers are encouraging, the end goal is about much more, Stafford said. “We hope our Bigfoot: Believe in Fire Safety campaign continues to draw attention and ultimately creates a bigger footprint of wildfire prevention efforts around the state, including with our local fire agencies who play an important role in educating and inspiring residents to practice fire safety around their homes, in their communities, and in the wildland/urban interface,” she said. “The ultimate metrics of success will be reductions in wildfires, responses to conflagrations, and wildfire suppression costs.”

To keep up with new campaign materials, visit the Facebook page for the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal.

ANGELO VERZONI is staff writer for NFPA Journal. Top photograph: Getty Images.