Graeter's, a family-owned and operated company dating back to 1870, is a Cincinnati institution.TV talk show diva Oprah Winfrey featured its ice cream on her show a little over two years ago, giving it national exposure, as well. It has stores in Cincinnati, and franchise outlets in Columbus and Dayton, OH, as well as in Lexington and Louisville, KY.
The company had worked with integrated firm Justice & Young (J&Y) on advertising for years, but in the past year decided to add a PR component to its marketing efforts. The agency created a strategic PR plan for the ice cream and candy maker, incorporating ways to raise Graeter's profile and reach the upscale audience its super-premium ice cream targeted.
J&Y VP Rodger Roeser wanted to associate Graeter's with other upscale products and events. The company makes a product called Opera Cream Eggs for Easter each year. Roeser felt those might provide a good opportunity for a tie-in with the Cincinnati Opera.
Rich Graeter, EVP and an owner of the ice cream company, is an opera fan and liked the idea of doing something that would promote not only his company, but also the opera.
Working with the opera was an opportunity to "do some good and get some publicity," Graeter says.
The opera already had a candy supplier, however, and so couldn't offer the opera creams. But it had been trying to find ways to promote itself, notes Julie Maslov, its PR director. It had added a performance of Carmen to its 2004 season, meaning it had an additional 3,400 seats to sell. A tie-in with Graeter's seemed a good way to address the opera's needs.
J&Y created a contest asking people to vote for which flavor of Graeter's was as irresistible as Carmen, the lead character in the opera of the same name. Rich Graeter announced the contest at an opera subscribers' event attended by 350 people in April. J&Y notified the media with a press release and created a web address linked to both Graeter's and the opera's sites for voting.
Nominated flavors were described in opera-like terms. For example, lemon sorbet was called: "A taste of sunny Seville, music with zest, and a fresh leading lady (who's a bit of a tart)." Voters were given five flavors to select from.
Graeter's ice cream was sold at opera performances throughout the season with the winning flavor featured at Carmen's opening night on July 17.
J&Y's three-person team targeted local print and broadcast media, while also reaching out to national opera and confectionary trade outlets.
The opera put information about Graeter's in a mailing to subscribers. It also placed a Graeter's ad in its Playbill. Graeter's hung opera posters in its stores. A second release went out July 14 announcing that black raspberry chip ice cream had been voted as irresistible as Carmen, noting that it received 56% of the more than 1,000 votes cast. The release also noted that five winners would be chosen at Carmen's opening night to receive an opera gift package and a year's supply of Graeter's.
Two local TV morning shows covered the co-promotion, as did the Cincinnati Enquirer and 13 community papers. "Basically, all of Cincinnati knew about it," Roeser says. A national confectionary trade publication also covered the promotion.
As far as attendance, the co-promotion "helped fill seats for that performance," says Maslov.
Graeter's and the Cincinnati Opera hope to do more co-promotional events in the future.
"The more we can connect to things that are comfortable to people, that really helps us," says Maslov. Roeser adds, "I see a very lucrative and long-term relationship between the two entities."
PR team: Justice & Young and Graeter's (both in Cincinnati)
Campaign: Graeter's/Cincinnati Opera cobranding promotion
Time frame: February to July 2004