Client: Allianz (Munich, Germany)
Client: Allianz (Munich, Germany)
PR Teams: Nike Communications (New York, NY), Burson-Marsteller (New York, NY)
Campaign: It's a Wrap
Time Frame: August-November 2000
Budget: dollars 600,000
German insurance giant Allianz took its first step toward expanding its US presence on November 3, 2000, when it joined the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol 'AZ.'
Allianz hired New York-based Nike Communications to construct a media event, and Nike SVP Michael Christmas came up with a play to cover the entire NYSE in blue nylon emblazoned with the Allianz logo and the slogan 'Covered by Allianz.'
Though cognizant that joining NYSE is not a huge media event for American financial journalists, Allianz wanted to use the event to lay a foundation for future acquisitions and expansion here. Nike looked to the company's slogans for direction.
'They said, 'We're thinking of this, and we really want to create a big presence, to let our coming here be known. We want something that's going to make an impact, not only with traders and people who would see the building, but with the media as well,' ' says Christmas.
Conversely, Sabia Schwarzer, Allianz' director of corporate communications for North America, minimized publicity of the event in Europe, saying her overseas goal was primarily to let Allianz employees know that they had arrived in the US.
'We've had a presence in America for awhile, but it was never a market leader,' says Schwarzer. 'But in Europe we have a very strong position and sometimes come across as threatening. We wanted to do a low-key event in the US that was appropriate (but different). For instance, other German companies have done beer festivals, which is very German.'
Nike had to move quickly. Mindful of the building's landmark status, the company hired an approved New York Stock Exchange vendor for the construction and quickly gained the exchange's approval. Engineers also were hired to develop the concept of wrapping the entire stock exchange in blue nylon.
'We wanted the architecture of the building to be visible,' says Christmas.
Six days before the event, cables were rigged and 40,000 square feet of nylon in 60 sections was wrapped over the building after business hours.
Everything was covered but the emergency exits.
Schwarzer issued a press release to major wire services, networks and newspapers on November 1 and held a press conference at Rockefeller Center for both European and American media the following day.
Some 20,000 Allianz T-shirts, printed with an illustration of the wrapped building, were distributed to traders and pedestrians at the event.
Burson-Marsteller was hired to help with US media contacts and to structure an Internet broadcast to Allianz employees worldwide, covering the ringing of the stock exchange bell on November 3 and a speech by Allianz CEO Henning Schulte-Noelle.
Schwarzer says most follow-up interviews dealt with possible US acquisitions that Allianz might be considering.
'Acquisitions are coming - they're definitely in the strategy,' she says.
'But we wanted to do it gradually, without losing credibility from the start.'
News outlets in France, Germany and the UK, including the Financial Times, covered the stock exchange listing. Schwarzer says US coverage included reports on CNBC's Power Lunch and write-ups in Businesswire, Business Insurance, Reuters, Lloyds Lists and a small mention in The Wall Street Journal.
Schwarzer says the company foresees larger efforts as Allianz establishes a bigger foothold in the American market.