CAMPAIGNS: Consumer PR - Turning the gamesters board silly

The market for new PlayStation games is flooded with dozens of new releases each month. With the proliferation of PlayStation magazines, getting coverage of a launch isn’t an issue. However, if the publisher doesn’t want its Official PlayStation Magazine game rating to make or break its new game, other PR activity must be undertaken. When Activision decided to release the new PlayStation game Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding in the UK, it lacked the huge marketing budget that more mainstream games receive. Third Planet International handled the launch.

The market for new PlayStation games is flooded with dozens of new

releases each month. With the proliferation of PlayStation magazines,

getting coverage of a launch isn’t an issue. However, if the publisher

doesn’t want its Official PlayStation Magazine game rating to make or

break its new game, other PR activity must be undertaken. When

Activision decided to release the new PlayStation game Tony Hawk’s

Skateboarding in the UK, it lacked the huge marketing budget that more

mainstream games receive. Third Planet International handled the

launch.





Objectives



Maximise awareness and endorsement of Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding in the

UK skateboard community. Develop the campaign to appeal to a wider

’credible audience’.





Strategy and Plan



The initial strategy was to create word of mouth about Tony Hawk’s

Skateboarding among the UK skate community. Key influencers were

identified, and a series of product demonstrations were held for

professional skaters.



Four months prior to the launch, a preview party was held. Invites went

went via tagged skateboard wheels and almost all of those who were

invited came along. The media relations side of the campaign then kicked

in, with the four UK skateboard titles - Sidewalk Surfer, Document,

Lodown and Big Cheese, with a combined circulation of 100,000 -

receiving exclusive information about the product’s development. The

idea was to create an ’army of ambassadors’ among skaters. Over 150

skate shops were also targeted, with a mailout.



The next strategy was the sponsorship of two freesports events over the

summer. At the Radlands World Cup Skateboarding Championships in

Northampton, 500 demo discs were distributed, and low-level branding was

used to announce the launch date.



The Sprite Urban Games, held in London, was used to take Tony Hawk’s

Skateboarding to a wider, non-skateboarding audience. Sixteen ’pods’,

all playing Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding attracted huge interest from the

public and media. Throughout the three-day festival, attended by 15,000

people, over 1,000 demo discs and branded T-shirts were distributed.



Finally, Third Planet used its Endorse database of lifestyle influencers

to mail a further 1,000 demo discs to journalists, club promoters, and

musicians. Clubs with PlayStation lounges received copies of the game,

and TV and radio producers and presenters were targeted, in the hope of

gaining impromptu on-air mentions.





Measurement and Evaluation



Starting from the ground up, this campaign had excellent results with

the various audiences it targeted. For example, the mailout to skate

shops had an enthusiastic response, with many installing PlayStations

and running in-store competitions.



It has also received a good deal of coverage, in the national and

regional media, as well as the niche magazines targeted, and 20 radio

and television slots. The Daily Telegraph reviewed the game, calling it

’an essential purchase for all PlayStation owners’.



When the game was released on 1 October, it went straight into the

PlayStation charts at number two - beaten only by Star Wars, the Phantom

Menace. Four weeks later, it was still in the top five selling games in

the country.





Results



Gaining endorsement for Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding seems to have been the

key in getting this game a lot of coverage, from June - before the game

was launched - and ongoing, up to the Christmas period.



This is no mean feat, as skateboarding lacks the profile it has in the

US, and is considered something of an alternative sport, but the strong

sales suggest Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding has reached a wider market.



Client: Activision

PR team: Third Planet International

Campaign: launch of Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding

Timescale: June to Dec 1999

Budget: part of pounds 150,000 marketing spend



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