Campaign: Consumer PR - Fox show finds success on back of controversy

Campaign: Playmakers TV show

Client: FX

PR: Team Resonate

Timescale: April-July 2004

Budget: £40,000

FX 289, Fox's Sky digital channel in the UK, suffered problems getting mainstream media coverage when it launched. Resonate was hired to promote new show Playmakers about the fictional Cougars American football team. It was pulled in the US after protests by the NFL, which didn't like the image of the sport being portrayed.

Resonate needed to make a show about American Football relevant and interesting for English viewers.

Objectives

To create a phased publicity programme that generated positive coverage in the build-up to the show's launch. To generate maximum publicity in the weekly and daily press around the show's self-styled controversy.

To use the show as a platform for greater exposure of the FX channel.

Strategy and Plan

Resonate focused on themes that UK viewers could relate to - particularly the show's target audience of 18 to 35-year-old men. It drafted a press release hinting that the NFL was trying to ban the show in the UK, saying such action would be tantamount to the FA attempting to ban Footballers' Wives. It also sent Playmakers-branded drug-testing kits to 50 top TV reviewers to tie in with a key storyline about Cougars' star player, drug addict Demetrious Harris.

Resonate then used promotional staff dressed as cheerleaders and an American football star to hand out 2,000 branded American footballs to young men around London in the run-up to the launch date.

The Daily Star's predominantly young male readership meant the newspaper was a key target. A full-page review in the TV section and a story in the main paper appeared.

Resonate then capitalised on Euro 2004 by designing a social experiment with the Metro newspaper, using a medical specialist to study how a journalist's aggression levels were affected by watching Playmakers, playing sport and watching the England/France game in Portugal.

Resonate also created a radio news story through research into how quickly sportsmen can fall from grace. A sports sociologist was made available for interviews and coverage was generated on 85 local radio stations.

Measurement and Evaluation

The campaign resulted in 112 press articles, including front pages of The Sunday Telegraph and American football magazine First Down, along with features in Metro, The Independent On Sunday, What Satellite, Digital TV and the Sunday Star. The show was 'pick of the week' in Time Out and all previews and reviews were positive.

The coverage (evaluated by Media Proof) reached a potential 30 million men, mostly in the 15 to 44-year-old bracket.

Results

FX 289 reported increased viewing figures across the channel following the campaign.

Daily Star TV Magazine editor Neil Batey wrote an article about Playmakers and included an interview with Cuba Gooding Junior's brother, Omar, who appears in the show. Batey acknowledges that there aren't many American football fans in the UK but says he pointed out parallels between the show and Premiership scandals.

He adds: 'The PR company played up the fact it had been banned in the US very well and used it as a platform to create interest.'

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