CAMPAIGNS: Event PR - Success is in the cards for AZ resort

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.

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