Paul Brandt: Awareness bound
Country star and Mount Royal alumnus collaborates with students on progressive awareness campaigns
By Anna Junker, Staff Writer
Mount Royal University alumnus, musician and storyteller-in-residence Paul Brandt is working with and mentoring marketing students from the Bissett School of Business on different awareness campaigns. From March 15-17, information booths were set up at West Gate and Main Street to promote these initiatives.
The campaign Clarity Cowboys & Concussions, is partnering with Smithbilt Hats, a business here in Calgary. They are using black cowboy hats to raise funds for concussion awareness, and injury of rodeo athletes. Another campaign Brandt champions, Not All Fun & Games, is raising awareness about human trafficking in Calgary, especially around sporting events such as the world famous Calgary Stampede.
Brandt says being involved with the work has its challenge but is always a lot of fun.
“When you’re in position of the mentor, you’re in a position of accountability and to be a part of it and be involved. And that’s fun for me because it pushes me and I hope it’s fun for the student’s that we’re working with as well.”
Brandt says that the different topics and causes they are covering fit well with his foundation, the Buckspring Foundation, and its work.
“The Black Hat Project again, for example, was kind of an easy fit. I became known over the last 20 years as a guy in a black cowboy hat. And we kinda riffed on that idea thinking about how the black hat is worn by the bad guy, but this is the black hat that does good things.”
Dylan Griffiths, the lead designer of Not All Fun & Games says Brandt’s level of involvement will vary from campaign to campaign but the group recently got some exciting news from the Calgary Stampede’s chuckwagon races.
“They do this thing where they present banners and sell them off… but they’ve asked Paul Brandt to be part of the opening ceremony for this so we’re actually going to try to create a anti-sex trafficking banner to go along with the rest of the chuck banners,” says Griffiths.
Griffiths adds the focus of the campaign isn’t victims but instead targets the organizational and purchasing side of trafficking. He says this is to keep the public’s focus on the culpability of sex traffickers and purchasers.
“We don’t like focusing around the victims so much because people… in our research we found people get the wrong idea in their heads about it. Like if you show an image of a sex trafficking victim oftentimes people won’t blame who is actually to blame; it takes away from that.”
But involving victims has created a positive effect in other campaigns. Brandt was involved with The W Project, a 2016 initiative that focused on women’s issues specifically related to missing and murdered Indigenous women and human trafficking.
Brandt uses the example of a woman from Ontario who had been trafficked almost her entire life and came to speak at Mount Royal.
“It was an incredibly emotional and impactful speech that she gave over at the Bella Concert Hall and at the end of the evening, a student approached us to let us know that she was being trafficked right here from the campus and we were able to step in and be a part of the solution,” says Brandt.
Not All Fun & Games will begin a 90-day social media campaign to raise awareness for their cause and black hats are already available for purchase from Smithbilt Hats to support concussion awareness in rodeo athletes.
Brandt says that the response so far has been great and believes the majority of the community wants to be a part of the solution.
“With knowledge of these things comes responsibility and there are specific examples of these things happening right here in our city,” says Brandt at the pancake breakfast. “It’s been fun for me, I can come to an event like this and start to see people stopping by and see the light go off that it’s not a celebrity encounter but we’re creating change. That’s an exciting thing to be a part of.”