Lifting 'geek' perception draws the press to chess

SEATTLE: It wasn't exactly the Super Bowl. Rather, DDB Worldwide

was entrusted with the challenging task of generating awareness for the

145-year-old US Chess Championship, which began on January 5.

Unlike the past 144 annual tournaments, this year's event marked the

first time that men and women competed directly against each other. So

DDB used this landmark occasion as ammo to secure an AP story, which was

then picked for the CNN ticker.

Within the tournament's first 24 hours, hits on the Seattle Chess

Foundation's website ( skyrocketed from

22,000 to 4.5 million.

And once users got to the website, they stayed to watch the competition,

which was being streamed live. Page views jumped from an average of 3

per visit to 100.

"The ticker was a tremendous help to us," said Nancy Gardner, DDB senior

account executive.

To change the perception that chess is a geeky sport, DDB decided to

focus stories on the personalities of the competitors.

"We got up-close-and-personal stories about the players - like the

youngest, a 13-year-old girl from New Jersey, or the three-time US

champion, who appeared in the Hollywood movie Searching for Bobby

Fischer - and really highlighted the personalities of the game," said


DBB also went after local media to not only create awareness of the

competition, but to highlight the Seattle Chess Foundation and the work

that it had done getting chess added to the curricula of seven local

schools. Local print and television media ran with the story, which

generated media hits with the AP, Daily Telegraph (UK), The Seattle

Times, and even the Weather Channel.

The winner of the overall competition was Larry Christiansen, a chess

grand master from Cambridge, MA.

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