Catholic News Service photo
Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Neb., announces a $2 million campaign to market Catholic schools at a Dec. 2 news conference at All Saints School in Omaha.
Catholic News Service photo
Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Neb., announces a $2 million campaign to market Catholic schools at a Dec. 2 news conference at All Saints School in Omaha.

OMAHA, Neb. — It's just four words, designed to carry a powerful message: "Catholic School. Awaken Greatness."

Combined with the image of a schoolhouse with windows lit to form a cross and topped by an American flag, the words are part a $2 million marketing effort designed to draw parents and students to Catholic schools.

Launched at a Dec. 2 news conference with Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha at All Saints School in Omaha, the marketing includes newspaper and television advertisements across the archdiocese and a voiceover carrying the same message in radio ads in English and Spanish. Social media including Facebook also is being used.

Catholic schools offer a faith-based education that leads students into a relationship with Jesus and teaches morals, discipline, confidence and values, Archbishop Lucas said.

Those schools partner with parents -- and they want to work with still more parents who are not sending their children to Catholic schools, the archbishop said.

And Catholics across the archdiocese are playing a role in the marketing campaign, because funding for the effort comes out of a two-year, $40 million Ignite the Faith capital campaign drawing to a close this month in a third wave of parish fundraising, said Shannan Brommer, director of the Office Stewardship and Development.

"This wouldn't be happening without the generosity of the people who supported the Ignite the Faith campaign," she said. "They're helping us tell the story with their gifts."

In scale and scope, integration of message and mediums used, it is the biggest marketing campaign for schools in the 127-year history of the archdiocese, said Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor.

"I think we took it for granted people know how effective our schools are," Deacon McNeil said. "But you just can't assume."

The ads will include iconic images of textbooks, chemistry beakers, pencils and rulers emblazoned with words such as "confidence, "discipline" and "faith," designed to raise awareness about the way Catholic schools instill values in a unique way, striving for the education and growth of the whole person, said Patrick Slattery, superintendent of schools.

Students in Catholic schools have high test scores and graduation rates, but their education goes beyond academics, he said.

"It is more than an academic institution," Slattery said. "We're putting our attention to the heart of the child."

The ads are designed to resonate emotionally with Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and they include references to a website built for the campaign -- lovemyschool.com -- that has facts and figures about academic success, financial aid and other aspects of Catholic education, as well as contact information, costs and hyperlinks to all 70 Catholic elementary and high schools in northeast Nebraska, Slattery said.

Often discussed by people familiar with them as one of the "best kept secrets," Catholic schools need to step up and be recognized, Slattery said. "Let's not be a secret anymore."

The website's details will help flesh out the message, he said.

"Once interest is piqued and people visit, if they want data -- it will be there," Slattery said. "If they want to know about discipline -- it will be there. If they want to know about academics -- it will be there."

Attracting people's attention is important, and the Christmas season is a good time to launch the effort, said Annie Grace, a brand strategist heading the effort at Omaha-based Bailey Lauerman, the advertising firm hired by the archdiocese.

"It will stand out against the holiday retail clutter and emphasize a higher purpose in the story of Catholic education," which is to help children mature and develop a strong character, as well as learn to read, write and do arithmetic, Grace said.

"You might hear people say, 'I went to Catholic school,' or ask, 'Did you go to Catholic school?'" she said. "We are hoping it conjures up an idea of the opportunity to learn something bigger than traditional academic subjects."

Generally, the ads will run through December, taper off for January and return -- perhaps tweaked a bit -- for a second wave from mid- to late-February into the spring, to capture the attention of families preparing to enroll their children for the next school year, Slattery said.

A third wave of advertising will take place in August to encourage families late in the enrollment period to consider Catholic schools, he said.

The campaign will be assessed in August to help determine its success and the next steps to take, perhaps through 2016, Slattery said.

Impact will be measured in several ways, including enrollment, the number of inquiries fielded by schools and the archdiocese's Catholic Schools Office, and hits on the lovemyschool.com website, he said.

Catholic education provides an opportunity to meet children's spiritual and academic needs, and that message should ring loud and clear, Slattery said.

"If our students are not learning discipline, faith, confidence, then we're missing the boat in developing strong leaders for our future," he said.