Unbridled Kentuckians Decide It's Time For A Kick-Ass New Slogan A couple of advertising professionals want to spruce up their home state's image by ditching the slogan Unbridled Spirit for a new one: Kentucky Kicks Ass. The new slogan has garnered fans as far away as Japan and England, but will state officials sign off on it?
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Unbridled Kentuckians Decide It's Time For A Kick-Ass New Slogan

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Unbridled Kentuckians Decide It's Time For A Kick-Ass New Slogan

Unbridled Kentuckians Decide It's Time For A Kick-Ass New Slogan

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

In Kentucky, a push is on to remake the state's image. A couple of marketers say they're not satisfied with the state's slogan, Unbridled Spirit. They say Kentucky needs something edgier, something a little more direct. Here's Brenna Angel of member station WUKY.

BRENNA ANGEL, BYLINE: The Bluegrass State is known for its horse racing...

(SOUNDBITE OF HORSE RACING)

ANGEL: ...its bourbon...

(SOUNDBITE OF COMMERCIAL AD)

(SOUNDBITE OF HORSE RACING)

ANGEL: ...its bourbon...

(SOUNDBITE OF COMMERCIAL AD)

ANGEL: ...college basketball...

(SOUNDBITE OF BASKETBALL GAME)

ANGEL: And if a couple of creative advertising pros have any say in the matter, Kentucky will be world renowned for something else.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO MONTAGE)

ANGEL: In a five-minute online video, two guys standing on the steps of the State Capitol make their case for the new slogan. That three-letter word stirs up a lot of emotion and gets attention. And the slogan is far different from the current one.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMMERCIAL AD)

ANGEL: Kentucky natives Griffin VanMeter and Whit Hiler created the video. They both work for different advertising firms. Two years ago, they, along with another friend, started a Facebook page called Kentucky for Kentucky with the goal of crowdfunding a Super Bowl ad focused entirely on the Bluegrass State. They weren't able to reach the $3.5 million needed for the commercial, but Hiler considers the project a success.

WHIT HILER: Everybody was saying kick ass. That was our thing on our Facebook page and - so that seemed logical when we came up with the idea of rebranding the state.

ANGEL: Kentucky adopted the Unbridled Spirit slogan in 2004 and incorporated it into marketing materials, government stationary and license plates. But Griffin VanMeter says that's the state's message, not something people would actually use in normal conversation.

: You have to stand out, and you have to take risks if you want to do this branding and to get noticed. And you need mantras that people can rally behind.

ANGEL: Tourism slogans come and go. Last year, Florida unveiled Must Be the Sunshine, and Connecticut wants you to know that it's Still Revolutionary. When the Kentucky campaign launched, VanMeter wasn't sure how officials would respond.

: Maybe the state will just write us a check and be like, you guys are awesome, and give us a key to the state of Kentucky.

(LAUGHTER)

ANGEL: They didn't get a key to the state, but the guys did catch the attention of national press. A state tourism spokesman told USA Today that officials would not endorse the phraseology because the campaign organizers have a, quote, "different constituency, which is no one."

GOVERNOR STEVE BESHEAR: I think that they probably have a pretty good constituency.

ANGEL: That's Steve Beshear, the governor of Kentucky. Fans of the edgy campaign fired back at the state for its stiff response, and officials have softened their opinion.

BESHEAR: I think it's fun. I think these guys are very innovative, and they're attracting a lot of attention for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. So I urge them on in all of their innovative thinking.

ANGEL: Officially, Kentucky's sticking with Unbridled Spirit, but VanMeter and Hiler were able to sit down and discuss their campaign with the state tourism cabinet. They're now selling T-shirts and prints of their slogan to customers all over the world. Apparently, there are people in England and Japan who also think Kentucky kicks ass. For NPR News, I'm Brenna Angel in Lexington.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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