CAMPAIGNS: Public Affairs - MN has Monopoly on housing crisis

Client: Housing Minnesota, Minneapolis Consortium of Community

Developers

PR Team: Sisco Public Relations (Minneapolis)

Campaign: Monopoly: A Play for Affordable Housing

Time Frame: May 17 - September 3, 2001

Budget: $7,500



With over 80,000 renters competing for 39,000 units of affordable

housing in the Twin Cities area alone, Minnesota faces one of the US'

most difficult housing crises. The Minneapolis Consortium of Community

Developers and Housing Minnesota wanted to jump-start their efforts by

raising money and awareness for affordable-housing issues. "So many

people feel the effects of the issue because it continues to move up the

income scale," says Shawna Tobechukwu, communications director at the

Family Housing Fund in Minneapolis.



So how do you create awareness for the issue of affordable housing and

raise money for the cause? Play a game of Monopoly, of course, and link

the real-estate theme of the game to affordable-housing issues.



Strategy



Sisco Public Relations turned to special-events company Ridgeway

International to create - exactly to scale - the largest Monopoly board

in history for use at the Minnesota State Fair.



"People were fascinated with the link between a Monopoly board and

affordable housing," says president Ginger Sisco, who adds that the

timing was ideal because affordable housing was once again a hot topic

in the area due to upcoming local elections. Indeed, all Minneapolis

mayoral hopefuls showed up to play.



Tactics



From August 23 to Labor Day, teams of six were allowed to play 90-minute

games of super-sized Monopoly. Half the teams prepaid amounts of $1,000 and up, and the other teams were picked at random from the crowd.

In most cases, teams were provided with a VIP for their sixth member.

Minnesota TV and radio personalities, journalists, and prominent housing

reps were among the VIPs selected. The grand prize in the competition

was (appropriately) a trip to Atlantic City. Second and third prizes

were trips to NYC and Washington, DC, respectively.



Covering the enormous board was a 75x40-foot tent, around which

contestants and onlookers could all find information about Minnesota's

housing issues, as well as about the sponsors who purchased property

squares on the board.



Radisson Hotels, Hasbro, the MN State Fair, Sprint, and others were

represented.



Results



While addressing a serious issue, everyone involved managed to have

fun.



"The bleachers around the board were full," says Paul Ridgeway,

president of Ridgeway International, indicating the importance of the

affordable-housing issue to state residents. "It was not about

fundraising, but raising awareness," adds Tobechukwu, though she gladly

admits that financial predictions were exceeded by over 5%.



Tobechukwu has Sisco to thank in part, as the agency claims that this

event received more media coverage than any other Sisco initiative:

Minneapolis TV and radio coverage totaled 90 minutes of airtime.



Future



At the event, over 10,000 signatures were gathered on a petition asking

for more funding for affordable housing, which will be sent to Gov.

Jesse Ventura. Also, a seven-minute video of the event that was created

by the Family Housing Fund will be used to continue to raise awareness

in the community, as well as to bring the giant Monopoly game back for

next year's State Fair.



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