Theirs is a love that did not go unrequited.
They loved their Ducks and Ducks loved the guys from Supwitchugirl right back.
Michael Bishop ’10, Jamie Slade ’10, and Brian McAndrew ’10 professed their shared affinity for Oregon football in two music videos—“I Love My Ducks (I Smell Roses)” and “I Love My Ducks (Return of the Quack)”—which spiraled into virality during the 2009 and 2010 seasons and have gone on to amass some 3.2 million combined views on YouTube.
The hip-hop hits, performed by the trio as Supwitchugirl (a twist on “what’s up with you, girl?”), pumped out catchy beats carrying the catch phrase that quickly became a mantra for Oregon sports fans.
The three journalism undergraduates created the first video as one of several weekly comedy shorts for the DuckU student television station. While it sparked a brief flap with university administrators over unauthorized use of the Oregon Duck mascot, it ignited a feverish run on “I Love My Ducks” T-shirts leading up to the 2009 civil war game and Supwitchugirl was, quite suddenly, famous.
Things haven’t been the same since for McAndrew, Slade, and Bishop. The former roommates’ “I Love My Ducks” experience left them with momentous memories, jumpstarted their careers, and feathered their bank accounts.
Speaking by telephone from the Nike campus in Beaverton—where he works as a social media copywriter for New York City–based Team Epiphany, a marketing firm servicing Nike’s American football account—Bishop marvels at what “I Love My Ducks” has meant for him and his Supwitchugirl mates.
“It sounds cliché, but it’s been a wild ride,” he says. “I wouldn’t have a job here right now if it wasn’t for ‘I Love My Ducks.’ It’s had a huge impact on my life. But I don’t think we’ve all had a chance to reflect on it too much. We’ve been just go-go-go since it happened.”
In fact, until recently the three hadn’t been in the same city at the same time since they performed in Glendale, Arizona, for a wild flock of Ducks fans before the January 10, 2011, BCS National Championship Game.
“Looking out across that pep rally, 35,000 people as far as the eye could see, even on the rooftops . . . that was an out-of-body experience for us,” Bishop recalls.
Soon after the Ducks’ 22–19 loss to Auburn, McAndrew flew to Sierra Leone to start volunteering with Worldwide Arts for Youth (WAYout), a nonprofit that supports conflict-affected youths through art and digital media. In West Africa, he directed videos for local musicians, including one for a song called “Sierra Da’ Paradise,” which earned best music video honors at the Sierra Leone International Film Festival.
Bishop and Slade came home to Oregon after the BCS game. But they didn’t hang stateside for long, either. “I left for Brazil, Jamie left for Peru,” Bishop says. “We kind of all took off for the winter.”
Bishop’s South American sojourn included an overdue visit with a former foreign-exchange student who had played on his high school soccer team.
“I always told him I would visit but I never had the money to do it,” Bishop says. “It was something I always told myself I’d do if I got the chance.”
His five-month trek also included forays into Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile, just as Slade and McAndrew enjoyed their own adventures facilitated by their fortuitous infusion of Ducks bucks.
Although they’re not rolling in Cristal-and-Bentley riches, Supwitchugirl’s members have earned enough to pay off some student loans, invest, and taste a bit of earlier-than-expected financial freedom.
The group has grossed $2 for each of more than 80,000 “I Love My Ducks” T-shirts sold in partnership with the UO Duck Store, and raked in a percentage of sales of shot glasses, window decals, water bottles, and other branded gear.
Slade today works in advertising video production for Crispin Porter and Bogusky in Boulder, Colorado—where, ironically, “I Love My Buffs” licensed apparel is being sold and even seen on TV commercials for the University of Colorado.
Supwitchugirl’s impact can be seen in other spinoff gear, officially licensed and otherwise, at universities nationwide. And closer to home, Bishop claims, “just about every high school in Oregon has ‘I Love My [fill in the blank]’ shirts.”
Nike even introduced a series of NFL team T-shirts à la “I Love My Ducks,” with the word “love” replaced by a helmet graphic and followed by “My Ravens,” “My Saints,” and so forth.
Bishop says “it’s pretty crazy to see” the idea’s influence ripple so far beyond Oregon sports. “I don’t think we realized how far reaching the whole thing really was, but it’s awesome to look back on.”
And looking ahead, even though they don’t earn any type of royalties from adaptations of their idea, Supwitchugirl currently has no plans to tighten their grip on use of the phrase by others.
“We would never pursue trying to control the phrase for high schools,” Bishops stresses, although “I’ve always thought it would be fun to expand the business by making ‘I Love My [blank]’ shirts for professional and college programs. But that would be a full-time job, and I don’t think any of us are at the place right now where we would be able to balance that and our current jobs.”
Plus, Bishop says, there’s just something special about the phrase—the time and place and memories it represents—that they don’t want to dilute.
“It will always be special for Oregon. For us we just loved the Ducks, we loved Eugene, we loved our school, and we articulated that—even though a three-year-old could have come up with the phrase,” Bishop laughs. “We were in the right place at the right time, with Oregon football on a crazy ride that’s still going on . . . but hopefully it turns out to be a timeless phrase.”
That seems likely, as long as there are fans to profess their big, block-lettered devotion to their Ducks.
—By Joel Gorthy '98