CAMPAIGNS: Event PR - AWK floats contest to win over locals

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.

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