COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — This year, instead of Ohio Stadium being filled with more than 100,000 screaming fans, there will only be 1,600 people between university staff, media, family guests and officials.
Even though the support will be silent it will still be there.
“Our biggest joke right now is we are the number one provider of two-dimensional people,” said Joe DiPietro, the co-founder of Perk Social. “It’s just a weird year!”
Perk Social is a tech company specializing in fan engagement. Like many other companies across the country, DiPietro faced business challenges during the pandemic. “
We said, ‘What else can we do to make money?'”
DiPietro knew he had to think outside the box and it became clear — use cardboard fan cutouts.
“I saw a German soccer team doing this and I just thought it was a great idea,” he said. “We help build audiences and this is building an audience of cardboard people.”
DiPietro created FanCutouts.com and quickly began working with universities he had already built relationships with through past fan engagement projects.
“Our sub-brand, FanCutouts.com, is working with almost all of the Big 10,” he said. “We’re working with about half of the Pac 12 and half of the ACC, half of the Mountain West teams, a couple of the SEC teams and a whole bunch of other smaller colleges and universities.”
Still, there is one program that stood out more than others for DiPietro: his alma mater Ohio State.
“As a huge Buckeye fan, I’m excited to see how well the team is going to do and glad that our cardboard is going to be helping them,” he said.
This week, volunteers and staff at Ohio State are installing 4,300 cardboard fans at Ohio Stadium.
“It just seemed like something we would want to do for our fans to be inside the stadium and still be a part of the game day experience,” said Tracy Hedrick, Ohio State’s associate athletic director and chief marketing officer for the athletic department.
Hedrick said installing the cutouts is a three-step process.
“We have a stake, it’s very similar to a wire coat hanger that actually slides onto the bench, and then the product, the fan cutout, slides into it almost like a yard sign . . . After that, we zip-tie them to the bench,” she said. “It usually takes about 60 seconds to install one, but that’s just being extremely focused.”
DiPietro said they enjoy seeing the creative cutouts people submit with some unusual faces.
“We’ve seen dogs, we’ve seen cats, we’ve seen fish, we had a donkey, there was a turkey,” he said. “A llama made it in! All kinds of animals are Buckeye fans.”
And while pet participants have been fun and humorous, Joe said the best part has been seeing Buckeye nation use this as a way to remember and honor their loved ones.
“There’s a lot of memorials,” he said. “A lot of people are putting in, you know, this is my grandfather, this is my grandmother. They were huge Ohio State fans. They can’t be with us when we go to the games, but I have our tickets because of them or things like that. To hear those stories and to see those stories, they have a little note saying please keep us together because we just want to sit with grandpa again, really awesome, really touching.”
The deadline to order cutouts for the opener has passed, but you can order for the rest of the season by going to https://ohiostatebuckeyes.com/fan-cutouts/.