Client: Casino of the Sun (Tucson, AZ)
PR Team: Off Madison Ave (Tempe, AZ)
Campaign: Groundbreaking and 5,200-card pickup contest
Time Frame: December 2000 - January 2001
Budget: dollars 25,000
When Arizona marketing outfit Off Madison Ave became agency of record
for Casino of the Sun, a casino company run by the Pascua Yaqui indian
tribe, it knew it had to do something right away to impress its new
An opportunity soon presented itself when the tribe opened a second
casino. Off Madison decided to use the January groundbreaking to garner
major publicity for the company.
Arizona is saturated with 19 casinos, but the Pascua Yaquis' new
facility would be five times bigger than any other. It is a
total-entertainment resort that will eventually boast a hotel, a golf
course, a 4,200-seat amphitheater and eight restaurants.
"We needed to educate the public that this was going to be much more
than a place to sit down at a slot machine," says David Anderson,
managing partner of Off Madison.
Off Madison brainstormed several ideas to grab the public's attention at
the groundbreaking but finally settled on an amplified version of the
52-card pickup game - one that involved a crane, 5,200 "playing cards"
and a grand prize of dollars 15,000.
On January 10, Off Madison launched an integrated campaign to drum up
1,000 participants and publicity. It ran newspaper ads, radio promotions
and sent a direct mail piece to 25,000 people. Press kits went to Tucson
media and national trade publications. The kits were mailed in tubes
wrapped in fake dollars 100 bills and included a press release and fact
sheet on paper resembling an oversized playing card.
"We had 1,000 participants within the first or second day," says Teri
Morris, Off Madison senior account manager. "We actually had to pull the
The event took place January 26 at the site of the new casino. In
addition to the participants, 1,200 VIPs, journalists and members of the
public were on hand.
The traditional groundbreaking came first and included speeches and
blessings by leaders of the tribal council.
Then came the game. A 72-ton crane stood in the center of the
200-square-foot drop space, and a PA system blasted the theme from 2001:
A Space Odyssey. The MC, local radio personality James "the Manic
Hispanic" Rivas, pumped up the crowd. When the crane's jaws opened,
5,200 playing cards printed on 8.5-by-11 inch heavy stock dropped 66
feet to the ground.
Participants scrambled to grab up to 15 cards each. Fifteen winning
cards brought cash prizes starting at dollars 50, but only one - the
seven of hearts - conferred the grand prize. The winner was Maria
Sianez, an elementary-school bus driver.
Tina Lentz, Casino of the Sun's VP of marketing, says that since the
groundbreaking event the company has seen increased business at its
current facility, also called Casino of the Sun.
ABC, CBS, NBC and Telemundo affiliates in Tucson, and the NBC affiliate
in Phoenix, featured broadcast clips, ranging from 17 seconds to
slightly more than 2 hours. The total audience reach was 219,000, with
an estimated broadcast ad value of dollars 10,395. Two local radio
stations also hosted remote satellite broadcasts from the site.
Print coverage totaled 125 inches, for a reach of 1.9 million readers
and an estimated print ad value of more than dollars 54,000 (including
earlier coverage of the new-casino announcement). Features with
photographs appeared in the Tucson Citizen and The Arizona Daily Star.
The Arizona Republic, Inside Tucson Business, The Business Journal of
Phoenix, The Casino City Newsletter, the Las Vegas Sun and the Las Vegas
Review Journal picked up an AP report.
Off Madison and Casino of the Sun are anticipating the next major event
for the new resort: its October 2001 opening. Meanwhile, they are trying
to get the groundbreaking event listed with the Guinness Book of World
Records as the largest-ever game of 52-card pickup.