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
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
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
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
’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
’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,’
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.