These are heady times for the basketball Bulldogs of Butler University. The Indianapolis team has reached college basketball's storied Final Four in two of the past three years, recently scored a monumental upset win over in-state powerhouse Indiana University and this season joined a new, more high-profile sports conference in the Atlantic 10.
But all that is just barely enough to overshadow the burgeoning reputation of Blue II, the school's adorable English Bulldog mascot who just launched a national tour and is steadily building a social media empire along the way.
Along with their human assistants, Blue II and his eventual successor, Blue III, have been barnstorming the country in a van bearing their wrinkly likenesses, hitting major markets to further boost Butler's basketball profile through slobbery cuteness and social media savvy.
On Twitter, Blue II shares photos and interacts with his 11,000 followers. He's also got his own blog and posts filtered photos to Instagram and video updates to YouTube. Oh, and he's on Pinterest, Foursquare and Facebook, and shares live video via Ustream.
"He was already so popular on campus, but thanks to social media and traveling around, that's automatically raised his status and put him on another scale," says Butler's director of Web marketing Michael Kaltenmark, who doubles as Blue II's owner, chauffeur and ghost-tweeter.
So far, Blues II and III have hit Louisville and Nashville in conjunction with basketball team road trips. Next up are swings through Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Columbus, Pittsburgh, D.C. and New York City.
But how do Blue II and Blue III feel about the grind of a traveling celebrity? "The dogs love it," Kaltenmark says. "I think they just enjoy getting out of the office."