Shaq's Bubble Wrap bit was classic earned media

Coyne proved the power of real-time marketing with Shaq and Bubble Wrap this week.

Coyne PR proved the power and continuing evolution of real-time marketing this week when it turned Shaquille O’Neal’s foot fail into a big win for the not-so-sexy Bubble Wrap brand.

A quick recap: last week, the seven-foot-one-inch former basketball superstar, now serving as a TV analyst, took a tumble on the set of TNT’s Inside the NBA during the Rockets vs. Clippers NBA playoff game. Social media ignited with jokes about the fall, and O’Neal added fuel to the fire, tweeting that he’d pay $500 to whoever made the best meme of his fall.

Several days later, O’Neal wore Bubble Wrap during the show, which once again caused frenzy on social channels. Digital media outlets quickly followed suit, with articles coming from the likes of Sports Illustrated Online FanSided, ABC World News Now, USA Today, New York Daily News, and SB Nation.

Coyne’s innovative, quick thinking combined with Bubble Wrap parent Sealed Air’s speedy approval resulted in an earned media victory beyond what brands garner from real-time social media marketing.

The agency immediately called its Sealed Air client after seeing the fall and pitched the Shaq-sized protective packaging idea. Once the client gave the green light, the team reached out to TNT producers in Atlanta, who loved the concept. Massive packages of Bubble Wrap were shipped overnight to the studio.

Kyle Ragonese, senior account executive at Coyne who works on the account, told me earlier this week that "Bubble Wrap is known for protection and Shaq is a fun-loving athlete," so everything aligned for the firm’s idea to come alive.

The "dunk in the dark" moment was groundbreaking and clever, but today with brands across all industries dipping into the real-time Twitter game, it’s harder than ever (nigh impossible) to recreate that award-winning Oreo tweet.

This doesn’t mean brands shouldn’t participate in current or live events on social. I thoroughly enjoyed scrolling through all of the creative #TheDress posts in February. (Denny’s and JCPenney were two of my favorites).

But the Shaq-Bubble Wrap effort shows how TV and traditional media are still really important in gaining earned media impressions. Social media was already buzzing about Shaq’s clumsiness, so Coyne and the brand took advantage of that by connecting Bubble Wrap to the situation in a fun way on television.

While I love the Marshawn Lynch-Skittles story, the brand got lucky since the NFL player was unprompted in telling the story about his mom giving him the candy before games when he was a kid. Skittles, which eventually signed an endorsement deal with Lynch, was smart in how it leveraged the story. The Mars brand even sent Lynch his own custom-painted Skittles vending machine prior to signing him as a sponsor.   

The difference with Bubble Wrap, however, is that Shaq didn’t mention and doesn’t endorse the brand – Coyne came up with the concept on its own, and it worked out perfectly. It was also a great way to bring attention to a brand that isn’t typically top of mind to consumers.

Over the next few months, I bet we’ll see more agencies and brands taking similar creative risks. If it’s done right, building that relevant bridge between a company and a popular event or celebrity can increase awareness of a young business or breathe new life into an old brand.

Coyne quickly capitalized on and successfully executed an opportunity for a client, resulting in good old-fashioned earned media.

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