How the Minnesota Vikings' comms team created a winning opening for their new stadium

By late August, all of the Vikings' home game tickets were already sold out. The Vikings PR team and Zeno explain how they made that happen.

Company: Minnesota Vikings    
Campaign: Minnesota Vikings Open U.S. Bank Stadium
Agency mix: Zeno Group (Minnesota Vikings’ AOR)
Duration: September 2015 - September 2016

Leading up to the Minnesota Vikings 2016 season, Zeno Group and the Vikings PR team executed a campaign to create fanfare around the team’s new U.S. Bank Stadium.

The $1.1 billion stadium has been in development for several years and, with taxpayers fronting roughly 50% of the cost, it is hailed as the largest public-private partnership in Minnesota state history.

Though the stadium has already hosted a soccer game, several concerts, and two preseason NFL games, the U.S. Bank Stadium opened in earnest last Sunday night with the Vikings battling to a 17-14 victory over the Green Bay Packers.

Strategy
Planning for the campaign began in September 2015 when the stadium was nearing 90% completion.

The PR team had the goal of shining a national and international media spotlight on the new stadium, showcasing the project as one that would transcend the sports world.

"We wanted to create a storytelling playbook to showcase the U.S. Bank Stadium as a technological marvel, true convergence of innovation, and first-class programming and comfort, primed to become an iconic symbol of the NFL," explained Lester Bagley, EVP of public affairs and stadium development with the Minnesota Vikings.

The campaign team looked to propel the Minnesota Vikings to the forefront of news feeds and social feeds nationwide by igniting a new conversation about the team, its ownership, the city of Minneapolis, and state of Minnesota.

According to Bagley, the Vikings wanted to target "national and international media that transcend sports – lifestyle, architecture/design, business, sustainability, and Jewish media."

Tactics
In November 2015, the PR team organized a media trip which included a hard hat tour of the stadium at its 90% completion mark. Media was given access to presentations and interviews with the stadium architect, construction company, Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, and Vikings executives including the team’s GM Rick Spielman and owner Mark Wilf. Media attendees spanned sports, men’s lifestyle, architecture, and business reporters, as well as local Minnesota and national media outlets, such as Complex, Associated Press, and ArchDaily.

The new stadium features an 8,100 square foot display board and enough Wi-Fi access points to provide internet to 66,000 fans at the same time. To tell the tech story, the Vikings leveraged tech media conference Pepcom in New York City in April 2016.

During the week leading up to the official stadium grand opening on July 22, 2016, the PR team developed a series of media stadium tours. Attendees included The Weather Channel, USA Today, and NFL Network.

On the day of the first Vikings home game, pregame festivities included a party on the commons area in front of the stadium with live music for a crowd of thousands. Just prior to kickoff, the Vikings showed a video featuring Thor Bjornsson, who plays The Mountain on Game of Thrones. He helped introduce a new cheer based on an Icelandic war chant. A 360-degree video of opening night was also created and posted to the team's branded YouTube channel.

 

As a tribute to late music legend and Minneapolis native Prince, the Vikings asked the NFL for an extended halftime. The halftime featured the Minnesota Orchestra playing the soundtrack for a highlight video that was projected onto the field. Following the video, Prince’s band The New Power Generation joined the orchestra for a rendition of "Purple Rain" that culminated with purple confetti blanketing the crowd.

Social media efforts were handled by the Vikings’ in-house digital team which is called the Vikings Entertainment Network, which manages Vikings.com and the team’s social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Results
The U.S. Bank Stadium campaign received more than 430 unique media placements across online, print, television, and radio outlets. International outlets in Jerusalem and Chile also covered the campaign.

Notable media coverage included features in Maxim, Fortune, Forbes, ArchDaily, The Jewish Telegraph Agency, and Architectural Digest.

The campaign has generated more than 650 million media impressions, measured across both social and traditional outlets.

By late August, all of the Vikings home game tickets were already sold out.

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