Client: American Water Works (Voorhees, NJ)
PR Team: Tierney Communications (Philadelphia)
Campaign: Hoops & Heroes
Time Frame: October 2000 - April 2001
Budget: dollars 100,000
American Water Works (AWK) is the largest investor-owned water-supply
company in the United States. More and more, locally operated water
companies are contracting out their management or selling their assets,
which gives AWK opportunity to increase business. The company is intent
on increasing its national exposure and growing business, while at the
same time maintaining local roots for its subsidiaries in 23 states.
"We want to create knowledge that the local companies are part of a
bigger company," notes Sherry Lytle, AWK VP of corporate
AWK aligned itself with the increasingly popular women's college
basketball by sponsoring the 2001 Final Four games in St. Louis.
Tierney Communications account supervisor Jeff Juberlirer says, "There's
a lot of opportunity to get in the door" by sponsoring the host
committees of women's sports events.
Tierney considered several options, including a charity basketball game
featuring celebrities and an interactive booth at the games to promote
An essay contest for female high school basketball players ultimately
was considered the best way to link AWK subsidiaries with the
communities they serve and increase the company's national
The girls would write about "how participating in team sports
contributed to their personal growth," and winners would receive
scholarship money and attend the Final Four game with a guardian.
Eight hundred high school basketball coaches in AWK service areas
received a mailer requesting that they nominate a player based on
athletic commitment, academic achievement and community service. A panel
of seven women professionals in the St. Louis area and Marilyn Ware, AWK
board chair and a former athlete, judged the essays.
Tierney developed a news release that was sent by AWK's regional
communications officials to the local news media announcing the contest,
the selection of a winner and the trip. The agency then handled the
national and St. Louis media.
Five hundred invitations to the ceremony for the winners were sent to
elected officials, municipal water managers, AWK employees and prominent
citizens - 200 attended. ESPN sports broadcaster Robin Roberts was the
event's keynote speaker.
Juberlirer notes that the invited officials "were customers or
prospective customers who influence the water-utility decision-making
process. It was a fun venue and forum to interact with company
The program generated positive coverage in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
the St. Louis Business Journal, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The (Newark)
Star-Ledger, The Joplin Globe, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, ESPN and the
Oxygen Web site. Lytle reports AWK surveys showed customer satisfaction
rise during the campaign, but he admits it is difficult to quantify the
program's specific impact beyond media impressions.
Tierney will administer Hoops & Heroes at next year's Final Four in San
Antonio, where AWK currently lacks a market presence.
The company is seeking to bring more employees into the program and
generate more exposure. Juberlirer wants to develop ways to better
measure the campaign's impact.