Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

The Backstory: Choose901 Community Shirts

Photo: Ty

Featured photo: Ty

Before we launched Choose901 in March of 2012 my staff were asking me for Choose901 shirts.

I hesitated because we didn’t need shirts to do our work. We originally made the Choose901 campaign to recruit college graduates from other cities to move to Memphis, so having shirts or not having shirts wasn’t going to matter.

But after a year I was beginning to crack. More and more Memphians were following our work, utilizing our stories and sharing opportunities. Not only were they helping us spread the word about how to “invest and enjoy your life in Memphis,” but the stories were fueling them as well.

I didn’t want to print 100 shirts and just watch my staff systematically wear them over the next year. Our budget was so tight and our work was too important.  Paying $1,000 for 100 shirts is a big deal when we could spend that on creating more awareness for Memphis. I also didn’t want to create shirts that were all about Choose901.  Choose901 is all about the pieces of Memphis that form this amazing city, not the other way around.

Then it hit me.

Like most good ideas, it came to me while hanging out on Beale Street. I was eating ribs sitting out in front of Pig on Beale in May of 2013 before a playoff game. We watched thousands of people walk by towards the Grindhouse as the drum-line played down in front of Silky’s.

Person after person walked by in their Memphis Grizzlies jersey of choice. Some were white home jerseys with the number 50 and Randolph on the back.  Others were navy away jerseys marked with 33 and Gasol. There were Beale Street Blue ones with the number 9 and Allen. urlPersonalized and custom jerseys were being worn as well. Complete strangers all unified as one. High-fiving one another. Smiling and talking like old friends. All heading together to one location to cheer on their team.

That is what we needed. That is what I wanted.  A unifying team jersey of sorts for our city.

So if you break down the components of the NBA jersey you have:

  • Player’s Name / Number
  • The jersey color of preference
  • The team name: Grizzlies
First design

First design

So we rebuilt this concept with our community shirts.

  • The Community/Organization names like Downtown, Teach for America, South Memphis, etc
  • The Shirt color of preference
  • The team name: Memphis

One final detail: Each Grizzlies jersey has the NBA Logo, and that is the role the Choose901 logo plays.

Then there was the fun element we added to help make sure we got enough shirts ordered. We created a little competition where the shirts increase in price from $5 to $20. The sooner you buy, the cheaper your shirt! I have had so many people come up to me over the years to brag about and show off their $5 shirt. Of course they cost us more than that, but it all evens out and $20 is still a great deal for cool shirt.

So that is how it all began.  To date we have done three different Community Jersey designs and today we launch our fourth offering. We have featured 62 different communities /organizations and have printed dozens more with custom orders.

I hope you are able to get the shirt you want this week. I can’t wait to see them all over town, all over social media, and all over the world. Show us how you rep Memphis!

Post by John Carroll, Executive Director of City Leadership and the founder of the Choose901 campaign.

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