In an effort to drive more African-American college students to the voting booth this fall, Black Entertainment Television is dispatching a splashy "Road Runner 2000" Hummer to 37 historically black colleges and universities throughout North America.
BET wrapped a leased Hummer in the network's "Black Star Power" logo earlier this year in celebration of its 20th anniversary. The network used street teams, including BET on-air talent, to take the vehicle to college-football games, nightclubs, concerts and other local venues in which its key audience was likely to gather, BET senior vice president of corporate marketing and communications Kelli Richardson said.
This time, the Hummer is painted with colorful signs that urge young BET fans to register and vote. The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation's Black Youth Vote and Education program is taking part in the road tour, with a goal of signing tens of thousands of new voters for this year's election.
Ultimately, BET wants to double the 50 percent voter turnout by African Americans in the last presidential campaign, and plans to sign up at least 400 students at each of its stops.
Students who commit to voting are eligible to perform music, dance, poetry or comedy on the BET sound stage during the tour. The best student footage will be shown later this fall during a week of BET programming titled You're the Star.15 Seconds of Fame.
BET's nine-week voter registration campaign kicked off earlier this month.
"We're combining that with a major affiliate push," Richardson said. BET will work with local radio stations to promote the tour.
Stops will include Black College Football Classics games and other large student gatherings.
"We thought of other vehicles" for the tour, Richardson admitted, but decided the Hummer is one of the more edgy modes of transport around.
"It creates a buzz," she said.
The Hummer also stopped at the Harlem Block Party earlier this month, helping to kick off the network's new New York-based studio and its fall programming season.
Among the colleges on the tour are University of the District of Columbia; Morehouse College in Atlanta; Alabama A & M University in Huntsville, Ala.; Texas Southern University in Houston and Langston University in Langston, Okla.
The voter registration tour is part of BET's expanded promotional budget. It plans to double last year's media outlay to include broadcast advertising on networks such as UPN, Richardson said.