The Orange Bowl's conception came from organizers looking for a post-season football game that could be identified with Miami.
However, over the years, the Orange Bowl spirit had grown beyond the reaches of the city into the South Florida tri-county area.
The Orange Bowl Committee, a volunteer organization with more than 300 Florida residents as active members, had watched this growth and realized that the Orange Bowl was no longer just a "Miami thing." The bowl and its sponsored programs, such as the Youth Football League(YFL) and various scholarships, had been working to support Floridian communities for years, and the committee wanted to let the state know it was there for everyone's benefit, regardless of where the game was played.
With a national championship game coming up, the committee decided to announce City Appreciation Days, a grassroots approach to raising awareness of the Orange Bowl's programs, while recognizing each city's role in making them successful.
"We thought it was a good way to reinforce what we'd been doing in those communities, to say, 'This is why you do what you do,'" says Joe Hornstein, media relations head for the Orange Bowl Committee. "They had to know it's more than just a football game."
With O'Connell & Goldberg's (O&G) help, the committee spoke to 10 cities, including Palm Beach Gardens, Coral Springs, and Pembroke Pines, about hosting appreciation events. Many reciprocated with Orange Bowl Appreciation Days.
O&G wanted to make it clear that these events were not about selling tickets to the game, but rather to let South Florida know of the committee's gratitude toward the communities for their help in running the programs.
Looking to maximize the exposure of each city's appreciation day, the agency arranged for face time with officials at city commission meetings and presented custom-made Obie Community Spirit Awards to give reporters an interesting angle. "It made sense to go into these communities using the championship game as our showpiece, but also expose everything else we were doing," says Hornstein.
To give the presentations a sense of occasion, O&G made sure that each ceremony was attended by prominent committee members with specific ties to the city, producing a mix of celebrities, state representatives, YFL players, and coaches. Obie, the Orange Bowl's giant orange mascot, was on hand to provide colorful photo-ops for the press to pass along to print.
"It was really a nice juxtaposition between this fruitful character and the commissioners," says Sandra Fine, an account executive at O&G. "It brought a lot of excitement to those commission meetings."
The events were held over the course of three weeks, leading up to the big game and the culmination of the annual Orange Bowl activities. Seven cities reciprocated by proclaiming it Orange Bowl Appreciation Day, further tying the cities to the Orange Bowl Committee's message.
The events spawned articles and photos in local papers like The Deerfield Times and larger nationals like the Miami Herald. In total, more than 20 non-sports-related clips ran.
Between 50 and 200 people attended each of the meetings, which were broadcast over public access cable to larger at-home audiences. After three weeks of events, O&G and the committee were flooded with phone calls from cities wanting to host spirit events in their area, as well as calls from commissioners wishing to join the committee.
"Our initial idea was just to go in and honor the city," says Fine. "In doing so, we drew attention to the committee itself, so it was a win-win situation."
The committee hopes to use its city relationships to produce larger events in the next year, as well as reach out to new cities.
PR team: O'Connell & Goldberg (Hollywood, FL) and the Orange Bowl Committee (Miami)
Campaign: City Appreciation Days
Time frame: September 2004 to January 2005
Budget: about $800