Inside SOS Heating & Cooling’s decision to return to Nebraska’s NIL market with the Polar Bear
SOS Heating & Cooling created one of the defining moments of the NIL Era last summer.
Partnering with Decoldest Crawford, the Nebraska HVAC company shot a commercial playing up on the Nebraska freshman receiver’s name. As some would say, it was NIL at its core. A local business leveraging a college athlete’s name. The ad soon went viral. College kids were calling looking for an SOS sponsorship, while the company’s name became increasingly popular in the Omaha, Nebraska, area.
Despite all the success, running a commercial this summer was not an automatic yes.
“We were waffling for a while on whether we’re going to do this or not,” SOS’s public relations manager Jake Wasikowski told On3 on the phone this week.
With a head coaching change, Crawford opted to transfer to Louisiana Tech. SOS was encouraged by the public exposure its commercial created, but without its star, there was some doubt. The advertisement was named the Best Individual Campaign at June’s NIL Summit.
The award is what ultimately brought SOS back into the NIL fold for a second consecutive year.
“We contemplated this for much of the spring, whether we should do it again or not,” Wasikowski said. “Winning the best NIL Campaign for Individual award kind of said, ‘Ok, people still care about the small companies and what they’re trying to do and promoting their brand and promoting the brands of the athletes, too.’
“It kind of jolted me and said, ‘Alright, if we’re going to do this, we have to do it this year, because it would make the most sense to do it after the Decoldest commercial went so went so viral.’”
Earlier this week, SOS officially returned with its latest commercial. Starring Nash Hutmacher, the promotion plays on the defensive lineman’s nickname: The Polar Bear. Since being released during the Kansas City Chiefs preseason game Sunday, the commercial has already picked up some fame. Hutmacher’s stint as a Polar Bear has been viewed more than 100,000 times on the HVAC company’s X account.
“We had always thought about Nash,” Wasikowski said. “I mean, honestly, we thought of Nash since Decoldest was leaving. We know Nash’s nickname. We loved it and loved his play on the field. Toward the end of the football season, when we knew Decoldest was transferring, Nash was on our radar. One of the other guys that we work with said, ‘Hey, what about the Polar Bear? That’s pretty darn good.’ I mean, could you imagine having Decoldest on the team and then following it up immediately with a guy whose nickname is the Polar Bear.”
Filming the Polar Bear’s TV commercial
Some of the features of last year’s viral NIL commercial returned in this summer’s version. Jon Stuehm, the third-generation owner of SOS Heating & Cooling, graduated from Ralston High School with Wasikowski.
Wasikowski – who previously worked in media – stars as the news reporter in the commercial, while Stuehm’s wife and kids are featured again. WMK Media was brought in to shoot the video and help finish out the script again, too. Michael Murphy, who went to high school with Stuehm and Wasikowski, co-directed the film.
Instead of Decoldest Crawford chatting up SOS, Hutmacher is seen running through a backyard as the “Polar Bear,” trying to evade the heat. He jumps in the pool before being let into the house.
Finally cooled off, he yells, “SOS to the rescue.” It’s a funny play on trying to save the Polar Bear from the heat, and Hutmacher plays up the part by wearing a bear mask.
“We seemingly tried to have a little more fun with it, even more, this time,” Wasikowski. “Just kind of playing off the name. We had this idea, let’s act like he’s a polar bear. I mean, that is his nickname. Let’s kind of act like he is a polar bear and put him in a fun situation, with them seeking refuge from the heat and saying SOS is the only way he’s gonna be able to stay cool.”
The HVAC company also learned from its first time in the NIL space. This year’s commercial includes a call to action. When fans mention the Polar Bear, they will get a free 10-year warranty on new parts and equipment.
They also consciously made sure to film a few more bits that will be pushed out across social media in the future. A longtime radio partner for Husker games, Hutmacher will be featured on radio ads during games this fall.
“Last year we looked at it as a branding situation,” Wasikowski said. “And now this year, we made a point to make a call to action to say, ‘Hey, call us. Mention the Polar Bear, and you’re going to get something out of it.’ We’re trying to track more of it. Last year the branding was just off the charts. I don’t know how much more business we did or less. We didn’t track it as well as we probably could. But at the same point, I mean, it was a big branding opportunity for us. That just was so cool.”
This could really just be the start of SOS’s partnership with Hutmacher. A fourth-year member of the Nebraska defensive line, he has no plans of leaving the Huskers soon. He’s become a notable contributor, too, finishing with 15 tackles and a half-tackle for loss last year.
When SOS worked with Crawford, they signed him to a six-month agreement. Terms of this year’s agreement were not provided, but the company is not ruling out a long-term relationship with the Chamberlain, South Dakota, native.
“It makes us feel a little more secure and willing to, you know, invest a little bit more with Nash,” Wasikowski said. “Try to try to build some more creative stuff around him.”