The York UPG outdoor exhibit was parked outside Spartan Stadium at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich.
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The crowds gathering around the bright-colored trailer seemed as interested in what was going on inside the trailer as outside of it. Parked only a few hundred feet from the entrance to Spartan Stadium on the campus of Michigan State University was a sight that was very familiar to several college campuses in fall 2005: a travel trailer housing the new Affinityâ„¢ Series of residential air conditioners and heat pumps with condensing unit panels bearing the logos of prominent colleges and universities.

The Affinity Series are products of York® International Corp.'s Unitary Products Group (UPG). The panels carry logos and colors of many of the major colleges and universities across the United States, including rivals Michigan State and Penn State. The collegiate program is a follow-up to the highly successful program launched in 2004 featuring York Affinity Series air conditioners and heat pumps in a choice of seven colors, designed to complement consumers' homes.

Inside the trailer, York UPG service manager Randy Smith and his wife Mary Kay, were showing off the colorful condensing units while outside, Ron VanNatter, territory manager for York UPG, hosted the tailgating events among the many Michigan State and Penn State football fans. Many watched another game of local interest - the University of Michigan versus Ohio State University on large screen TVs provided by York. Attached to the trailer were tents outfitted with several TVs and video game consoles. Visitors were also given memorabilia items.

DeShaun Creekmur and Carlos Ferrand of Genesco Sports Enterprises, who drove the trailer to a dozen different campuses across the United States throughout the fall, helped out VanNatter.

"A lot of folks who have stopped by really like the idea of a college logo on their condensing unit," added VanNatter. "We are taking leads and talking with people from as far away as Nebraska and Canada, not to mention Michigan and Pennsylvania."

Natalie DeRousse, sales manager of York Midwest (left) shows off the new collegiate condensing unit panels to Donna and Joe Napolitano, owners of Mechanical Energy Systems, Canton, Mich.
In fact, York International vice president and CFO Dave Kornblatt stopped by the exhibit before attending the game (which Penn State won, clinching the Big Ten football championship).

VanNatter said he has seen interest from students who will be the next generation of homebuyers. They want to show their support for their schools. He even suggested a way for contractors to sell the new panels as part of a maintenance program.

"Include changeouts of the panels each fall in a maintenance agreement," he said. "That way the panels stay clean and don't take abuse from the winter weather."

Prior to the tailgating event, York UPG dealers were given a sneak preview of the traveling show at a Michigan Branch Dealer event. The dealers were impressed with what they saw.

"This is a great way to turn a mundane thing like a condensing unit into a conversation piece," said Donna Napolitano, co-owner of Mechanical Energy Systems, Canton. "In our community, there are a lot of Michigan State and University of Michigan graduates - this is a great way to market to them."

The staff that manned the York UPG outdoor exhibit included (from left) Ron VanNatter, Mary Kay Smith, Randy Smith, DeShaun Creekmur, Carlos Ferrand, Lindsay Davis, and Andrew Boyer.
Another dealer, Ray Skotarczyk, general manager for Hearthside Heating, Madison Heights, agreed that marketing is very important. "This is an excellent promotion," he said. "It is a way for York to differentiate itself from the other manufacturers and get its name out into the neighborhoods. It promotes brand awareness."

In order to promote the new product line and differentiate itself, York has signed agreements with the Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Co. and the Michigan-based License Resource Group, which, in turn, represent colleges and universities, in order to offer the logo panels that replace the standard condensing unit panels. Alumni and sports fans can choose from among 45 college and university logo panels currently available. The plan is to have more than 70 major schools represented by the end of this year.

Back at the tailgating party, VanNatter noted that he wasn't surprised with the popularity of the college logo series. "When it comes time to improve air conditioning, leave it to York," he said.

Publication date: 12/19/2005