SPECIAL EVENT - Zooming in on competitors

SPECIAL EVENT - Zooming in on competitors

SPECIAL EVENT - Zooming in on competitors

Client: South Beach Beverage Company (SoBe; Norwalk, CT)

PR Team: Internal

Campaign: Apocalizard Now!

Time Frame: April 1999

Budget: Six figures

When South Beach Beverage Company (SoBe) decided to increase brand name

recognition for SoBe 3G Teas (infused with ginseng, gingko and guarana),

it capitalized on something its competitors didn’t have - a lizard


A pair of lizards, curled together in a yin-yang symbol on the bottle,

were meant to distinguish the beverages and give them what SoBe

co-founder and CEO John Bello calls an ’oriental and exotic aura

associated with herbal healing.’ The uniqueness of the product appealed

to 300 distributors nationwide, but establishing a toehold in markets

populated by fans of competing beverages like Snapple and Mystic proved

somewhat difficult.


SoBe decided that a special event as unusual as the beverages themselves

might reverse the tide. Howard Wishner, SoBe’s EVP of corporate

communications, and Carrie Pacchiana, corporate communications manager,

set the wheels in motion for an ’Apocalizard Now!’ event held on April

10 in a particularly tough market: Long Island, NY.

Several weeks prior to the set date, the company aired a series of radio

announcements on popular local station WLIR-FM urging listeners to come

to Republic Airport (Farmingdale, NY) for a ’liberation from boring

beverages that had held them captive for years.’ Similar invitations

appeared in local weekly newspapers, and media alerts were sent to

Newsday, local cable TV stations and ABC, NBC and CBS.

’We thought the airport would be a great venue to start out, not only

because it’s not exactly a typical place for kicking off a party, but

because Republic is located very close to the ’birthplace’ of both the

Snapple and Arizona brands,’ Wishner explains. ’And as for the

’Apocalizard’ theme, we concluded it had just the right blend of edge

and irreverence that characterizes our brand, without being offensive to

anyone in any way.’


On the morning of April 10, Bello alighted from a Dauntless PBY vintage

World War II torpedo fighter plane at the airport. In keeping with the

offbeat theme, he declared, ’I love the smell of lizards in the morning,

and we’re sure Long Islanders will, too.’

As aircraft carrying banners bearing the messages, ’Liberate Long

Island’ and ’Drain the Lizard’ flew overhead, Bello - dressed in army

fatigues - explained to attendees that with more than 50 local sales

reps promoting SoBe, they would no longer be limited to mainstream

brands such as Snapple and Mystic.

Following a rally and the unfurling of a giant map depicting the store

locations where a SoBe ’invasion’ was in the works, occupants of the

first 100 vehicles to arrive at the airport were marshaled into a

’LizardCorps’ convoy. Complete with a police escort, the convoy paraded

through Farmingdale to BJ’s Wholesale Club for a ’SoBe LizardFeSt’ Some

1,500 to 2,000 guests enjoyed a barbecue and as many free drinks as they

could consume. Among festival highlights were a live performance by a

local band, with Bellow on guitar, and on-site prize giveaways by



In the week following the event, consumer demand for SoBe was such that

reps sold 6,000 cases of product. Six hundred new retail accounts,

ranging from major grocery chains and mass merchant discount clubs to

convenience stores and corner delicatessens, were opened on Long Island

during this period.

Articles on SoBe and Apocalizard Now! appeared in Newsday and trade

publications such as Food & Beverage Marketing and Beverage Aisle.

’This campaign and other more promotional endeavors have definitely

helped us take sales to 5.5 million cases in our second year of

distribution,’ an achievement that places the brand slightly ahead of

Snapple’s sales pace at a comparable period of its development, Bello

asserts. SoBe now leads the ’healthy refreshment beverage’ subcategory

of the dollars 8 billion US ’new age, all-natural’ market sector

encompassing ready-to-drink teas, juices, sports drinks, still and

sparkling waters and natural sodas, according to research firm Beverage

Marketing (New York).


The framework of Apocalizard Now! will be used to promote SoBe in other

markets. Lizard-emblazoned ’Lizard Love Buses’ will continue to be

stationed at athletic competitions, concerts and similar events


SoBe has also signed on as the first corporate sponsor of bike

manufacturer Canondale’s TeamHeadShok.

These amateur and semi-professional mountain bikers will wear apparel

and ride bikes decorated with the SoBe lizard image. SoBe also provides

product samples at each event. - Julie Ritzer Ross


EVENT MARKETING - Looking behind the scenes

Client: The Jack Morton Co. (New York)

PR Team: Nichol & Co. (New York)

Campaign: Behind-the-scenes look at the opening ceremonies

Time Frame: May to mid-July 1999

Budget: Under dollars 50,000

The opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics generate a lot of

attention - at least for the athletes and celebrities involved. But the

special- events company that creates the glitz and glamour often goes

unnoticed. When the Jack Morton Co. was selected to produce the

five-hour opening ceremony for the Special Olympics in Raleigh, NC, with

the theme of ’It’s All About Attitude,’ the company was determined to

make the most of its first event shown on network TV.

The good news was that the Special Olympics, which would receive

residual attention, was willing to share the limelight. However, this

campaign was competing against many other concurrent ones.

’One of the real challenges was creating a program that spoke to a

variety of audiences,’ says Monty House, executive producer of the

ceremonies for Jack Morton Co., which was targeting athletes, families

and the media for the event. ’We were conscious of this need the whole

way through.’


To get visibility for Jack Morton, PR agency Nichol & Co. decided to

pursue media outlets that weren’t necessarily on the Special Olympics’

radar screen. ’We had to be totally non-competitive,’ says Lori Winick,

director of marketing communications for Jack Morton. ’Everyone had to

understand that everyone wins when more people are going after different


The campaign also presented several different story angles, including a

behind-the-scenes look at how the opening ceremony was put together.

Another angle, according to Betsy Nichol, president of Nichol & Co., was

that the client had decided to make this their cause for the year.

Volunteers from all the client’s offices offered their time and services

to help support the production team.

’The company had grown quickly, opening many offices, and it decided to

use this as a team-building effort for all the different offices,’ says



The centerpiece of the campaign - the B-roll - showed the ’making of’

the ceremony and featured interviews with celebrity participants such as

Billy Crystal, Stevie Wonder and Sugar Ray. The opening ceremony took

place Saturday night and the B-roll was sent via satellite on early

Sunday morning.

Nichol & Co. also pitched the story to national business and trade

publications, including Advertising Age, Ad Week and Brand Week, as well

as philanthropy trades.

’This was a vendor-to-vendor give-back situation with a lot of

volunteerism,’ says Winick.

A fact sheet that contained information on the 320 props and more than

6,100 costume pieces used in the show, as well as the 20,000 balloon

release in the finale, was faxed to media.


The tab is still running, but already more than 1.2 million print and

broadcast impressions of the Jack Morton Co. were recorded. Print

stories ran in the Durham Herald Sun (NC), St Paul Pioneer Press and

Banking Strategies magazine. A special distribution of the B-roll was

also given to ABC affiliates for their Special Olympics coverage, which

generated another 1.6 million possible impressions. Although the Jack

Morton Co. wasn’t specifically mentioned, the company’s name was in the

final credits.

’This is unusual for a company like ours,’ says Winick. ’The media could

have done the story without mentioning Jack Morton.’ And, as Monty House

notes, ’It helped to position us for future work.’ The company also

garnered several new business leads as a result of the campaign.


While Nichol & Co. is not actively pitching the story, the agency will

attempt to include it in broader company stories when appropriate. It is

also considering developing case studies around the event. - Jan


CRISIS COMMUNICATION - Allaying fears of asbestos issue Client:

Kannapolis City Schools, Kannapolis, N.C.

PR Team: In-house

Campaign:: Allaying fears of asbestos in school

Time Frame: August 1998

Budget: dollars 200

On August 3 1998 - one week before school was due to open for the year -

workers doing some remodeling at the Kannapolis City School in North

Carolina accidentally broke some tiles containing asbestos. A small

amount of the dangerous material was released while construction workers

and school staff were inside the building.

After quarantining the area and evaluating the extent of the clean-up

required, it became clear that the school opening would have to be


It was also clear that the school had a potentially bad public relations

situation on its hands.

Fortunately, Ellen Boyd, the school’s community relations coordinator,

had just finished getting accredited at the National School Public

Relations Association.

’I knew that the best way to handle the situation was to be forthcoming

and get the word out first - otherwise, we’d be put on the defensive,’

she says.


Boyd’s aim was to allay the fears of employees, parents, students and

the community; communicate what the school was doing to correct the

problem; and to minimize or prevent negative publicity. This entailed

notifying parents and students that school wouldn’t open the following


The school also had to explain the potential health problems to those

who were in the building when the asbestos was released. At the same

time, it had to notify the media.


’For the education reporters from the local newspapers, we laid out the

situation - explaining that there was no health risk from the small

amount of asbestos,’ Boyd recalls. The school also appealed to the press

to help it notify parents that school would be delayed. ’This set the

tone for everything that happened,’ says Boyd.

Letters in English and Spanish were mailed to the parents of the 300

elementary school students. School officials met with construction

workers, staff and the head of the clean-up to answer health-related


A press conference was held with the TV stations and newspapers, which

emphasized the need for the media’s help.


The media coverage was excellent, Boyd reports. Many stories mentioned

the school system’s concern for the safety of students and


Susan Dickerson, education reporter for the Salisbury Post, says she was

most impressed with with the way the school handled the situation.

’The school earned a lot of positive feelings in our news shop. It

helped us to know we were dealing with an upfront organization.’

The campaign received a Golden Achievement Award from the National

School Public Relations Association.

The incident set an excellent model for future crises, Boyd says. ’The

way we handled the crisis taught us that we made good decisions. We were

open and honeSt’ - Jan Jaben-Eilon.

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