Iowa's card-stunt backstory

Volunteers, fans pull off quite the visual

(Brian Ray/The Gazette)
(Brian Ray/The Gazette)

It, almost as much as Iowa’s 41-31 football win over Northwestern Saturday night, was the talk of Hawkeye fans through the weekend.

“It” was the card-stunts executed by the Kinnick Stadium crowd of 70,585 before the Northwestern-Iowa game. First, the fans held cards that formed a red-white-and-blue U.S. motif that engulfed the stadium. Then, they switched sides of the cards for a black-and-gold “America Needs Farmers” panorama.

Had enough fans decided they wouldn’t play along, it wouldn’t have been pretty. The fans played along.

“I had a terrible view, from the visiting team’s tunnel,” said Iowa’s associate athletics director and overseer of the department’s marketing. “When the crowd went ‘Oooh’ during the American flag stunt, I knew things either were really bad or really good. Sure enough, it was really good.”

How good? Iowa has gotten favorable attention from the event in a lot of circles. Klatt has heard from other schools wanting to know how the stunts were pulled off so well.

“The fact it’s ricocheting around the world is pretty cool,” he said.

The executionm of the stunts didn’t come easily. About 300 volunteers, from Iowa City West High School’s music organization and the UI Dance Marathon, earned their donations from JacobDavis Productions, who orchestrated the event. The Iowa students channeled their donation to the UI Children’s Hospital.

From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, the volunteers taped down the cards to each of the seats. Because of strong winds Saturday, additional tape had to be used. The volunteers were taxed, and needed every available minute to finish the task.

“Kudos to them for sticking it out,” said Klatt.

Had Friday and Saturday brought steady rain, the stunt would have probably been postponed for another game. But the ideal time to do it was a night game, with the extra hours available on Saturday for the grunt work.

Plus, as Klatt put it, night games are electric.

“I’d been thinking about a card-stunt for a couple of years,” Klatt said. “We’re always thinking about the events becoming a little more than just the game. It’s an expensive day for our fans, and we want them to have great experiences.

“We knew this was a huge undertaking. But (JacobDavis) does this for a living and they do it well. They know how to pull it off.”

JacobDavis has produced card-stunts at three Super Bowls and many other major sporting events, including one that used 130,000 fans at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway at a NASCAR race.

The cost, Klatt said, was about $80,000.

“It’s something we clearly would not do on our own,” he said. “Iowa Farm Bureau agreed to help us, and we got a little more help from a couple of other places.

“I look at it as a long-term investment in marketing the Iowa Hawkeyes. It’s part of the ongoing effort to make fans see the seven days in Kinnick each year as a special activity that transcends wins and losses. It’s how to make sure the person next winter who is looking at a ticket application feels good about making that investment.”

So, how do you top the card-stunt?

“I don’t know,” Klatt said. “I would suppose we’ll do another one again sometime. But right now I just want to take a deep breath and enjoy some football and basketball victories.”

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.