A look at the PR behind the Star Wars BB-8 droid's global launch

The app-enabled droid launched in anticipation of the next Star Wars movie in December.

MINNEAPOLIS: A global PR team of nine agencies worked together for months on the launch of Star Wars’ new droid created by connected toy company Sphero, with Lola Red manning the ship in the US.  

Although the BB-8 app-enabled droid launched on September 4 – billed as "Force Friday" – the "PR ball started rolling in April at Star Wars Celebration in [Anaheim, California]," said Becca Bijoch, senior publicist at Lola Red and lead on the Sphero account.

At the April event, a robot named BB-8, who is a new character in the upcoming Episode VII: The Force Awakens film, rolled on stage, featuring Sphero technology.

Lola Red, and its global PR team, had to keep a tight lid on the BB-8 news, while Sphero’s internal PR team worked with Disney and Star Wars creator Lucasfilm to respond to media requests without giving too much away, said Bijoch.  

In addition to Lola Red in the US, the PR team includes: Kaizo (UK); Swerve PR (Canada); Bullboat Spain (Spain); Moonlight Wave (Japan); Rocket Comms (Australia); markengold PR (Netherlands); and InVISIBLE Image (France).

On launch day, the BB-8 droid took media by storm, garnering 20 million impressions in the US, with coverage from outlets such as CNN Money, Mashable, Time, The Verge, and Vanity Fair. As of September 9, the media impression count in the US went above 40.2 million, according to Lola Red.

Bijoch said the first strategy for the firm was to sit down with media one-on-one in New York and San Francisco to show off the product and talk through its capabilities ahead of the launch. Some outlets used the desk side chat as an opportunity to take photos or video to use once the embargo lifted.

The nine-agency team also attended a global PR summit in London in July to talk about the messaging and overall goals of the campaign, added Bijoch.

With the launch event wrapped, Bijoch said the Sphero PR team has been receiving media requests from all over the world and fielding them out to the respective PR agency partner.

Episode VII: The Force Awakens will premiere in December, which is the "next key date we’re working toward," said Bijoch. As press inquiries continue coming through, Lola Red will facilitate potential BB-8 product desk sides and coordinate interviews.

Lola Red is also making sure the droid gets nominated for appropriate awards, and the firm may attend Comic-Con in New York next month with the BB-8.

Social media activities around the BB-8 launch were handled internally by Sphero, said Bijoch.

When Alexis Walsko founded Lola Red 15 years ago, the agency was based in Boulder, Colorado, and even though the firm’s main office is now in Minneapolis, she said about 40% of the business is still out of Boulder and Denver. Lola Red and Boulder-based Sphero were introduced through connections and former clients in the area, said Walsko.

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