CAMPAIGNS: Events PR - Cricket bat benefits out of the blue

Client: Slazenger

Client: Slazenger

PR Team: Shine Communications

Campaign: Cricket World Cup

Timescale: August 1999-May 2000

Budget: pounds 40,000

In 1999 the Cricket World Cup came to England for the first time in 16 years. For Slazenger, the international maker of equipment for golf, cricket, tennis and other sports, the occasion was an excellent opportunity to maximise exposure for the brand in the UK and to international guests to the games.

Though Slazenger was not an official sponsor of the World Cup it was the equipment sponsor of four England squad members, including the then captain Alec Stewart. Shine needed to develop a campaign which used these players and would bring maximum attention to the equipment they used.



Objectives

To develop a campaign to give Slazenger a measure of 'ownership' over the prestigious event. To create an intrinsic link between Slazenger's handcrafted bats, its sponsored players and the Cricket World Cup. Also, to attract younger consumers, particularly players aged 11-35, by giving the Slazenger brand a more contemporary image.



Strategy and Plan

Shine decided an injection of colour into the game was needed to reach out to a new generation of cricket fans. 'Project blue bat' was hit upon to achieve this aim. Slazenger-sponsored players had their bats painted the same blue as their England strip.

One hour before England's first game, the International Cricket Council (ICC) banned the blue bats from the tournament. Shine immediately contacted rights-holder, Sky News. After speedy negotiation, leading commentator Ian Botham came out in support of Slazenger and, live on-air before the first game, deplored the ICC's ruling.

The blue bats had to be painted white, which drew further comments from Sky News commentators about the ICC's decision and more mentions of Slazenger's campaign.

Shine drew attention to 'project blue bat' by creating a giant inflatable, branded blue cricket bat. This was smuggled into the stands and then pumped up to be brandished during the games. At the end of each match, it was brought down on to the pitch. Shine also distributed 5,000 free Slazenger branded 'blue bat' T-shirts.

Shine developed a strong relationship with the 'Barmy Army', the name given to passionate fans of England's team, which became a brand advocate and was extensively featured in a variety of interviews. The link to the Barmy Army helped Slazenger to appeal to a new generation of consumers.

In addition, a video news release was created and timed specifically to show the final interview with Alec Stewart before the opening game.

It included footage of the players' bats being handmade in Barnsley. This item was picked up on terrestial and satellite channels.



Measurement and Evaluation

A press release on the banning was sent out the same night and resulted in 16 positive articles, including coverage in the Sunday Telegraph, the Observer and the Express as well as regional items. Only one negative story appeared in the press. Shine's swift response to the emerging news story meant Slazenger gained control of the delivery of key messages to the media.

Over a three month period, the campaign reached an audience of over 98 million consumers; despite fighting for space against more glamorous sports such as the climax of the Premier League season.

One hour and 17 minutes of branded television coverage was achieved, which alone reached 25 million viewers.



Results

This campaign won a PRCA 2000 Outstanding Consultancy Practice Award.UK sales of cricket bats increased by 34 per cent with growth to the education sales sector of 40 per cent, reflecting the increased appeal of the brand to younger consumers. Also, the Barmy Army now sells jointly branded Slazenger products via its web site.



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