Houston uses Super Bowl to trumpet its merits

HOUSTON: Boosters of Houston pulled out all stops to present the oft-maligned coastal city at its best during the weeks leading up to Super Bowl Sunday.

HOUSTON: Boosters of Houston pulled out all stops to present the oft-maligned coastal city at its best during the weeks leading up to Super Bowl Sunday.

New Mayor Bill White called on old friend Roy Spence, president of Austin's GSD&M, to help develop a PSA campaign. That effort resulted in the tagline, "Put on a smile. Company's coming!" which was designed to encourage Houstonians to be friendly hosts.

"Anytime there is a big event like this, the [host] city gets lots of attention, potentially good, potentially bad," noted Eric Webber, GSD&M's VP and communications director.

White launched the campaign at a press conference less than two weeks ago. The push included a four-page newspaper insert informing locals about various Super Bowl activities, said Debra Ford, communications director for the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB).

Ford's organization has a booth in the Super Bowl press center, providing b-roll, story ideas, and restaurant advice to the approximately 3,000 reporters who descended on the city.

Meanwhile, the Greater Houston Partnership is targeting visiting CEOs and other business VIPs by delivering its message wrapped around game-day issues of the Houston Chronicle delivered to hotels. The organization will follow up with key decision makers identified through ticket sales, said communications VP Ira Perry.

The city's largest corporate employers are in on the act as well. Continental Airlines' corporate communications SVP Ned Walker served on a subcommittee that produced a half-million entertainment guides for visitors.

Continental used the attention to tout a new Houston terminal. The airline also published a Super Bowl issue of its in-flight magazine, and worked with the CVB to produce a minute-long segment highlighting Houston. The piece aired on CNN's special airport channel in key cities.

Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard launched a campaign touting digital-entertainment products and targeting urban professionals. HP is also hosting a Super Bowl party at a swank Houston bar featuring current and former NFL players, said Mike Hockey, a senior product PR manager.

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