CAMPAIGNS: Sports PR - 'The gentle sport' seeks PR impact

Client: USA Judo (Colorado Springs, CO)

Client: USA Judo (Colorado Springs, CO)

Client: USA Judo (Colorado Springs, CO)

PR Team: Catan Communications (Mine Hill, NJ)

Campaign: The 22nd US Judo Open

Time Frame: October 1-26, 2000

Budget: Less than dollars 5,000

Judo is the second-most practiced sport in the world after soccer, but not many people know that, or much else about the sport.

This was the challenge facing USA Judo and Catan Communications in attracting attention and future sponsors for the USA Judo Open in Denver.


Wayne Catan, principal at Catan Communications, sought to stress Judo's appeal. The idea was to advance the long-term economic prospects of the client, help the Judo Open earn money and bring attention to two major sponsors of the event, Shoreline Management and

'The genesis of the campaign was to introduce Judo as the sport you thought you knew, but didn't really know,' Catan says. 'We knew we would capitalize on the recent Olympics, which featured Judo as one of its most popular events. But we had to move beyond Judo fans. We wanted soccer moms to be excited about Judo.'

Catan and USA Judo decided to promote the Open as a regional event, focusing hard on Denver because it was the first time the event was held there.

Planning involved studying the major Denver media outlets and making calls to involve local Judo businesses and talent. The approach was to sell Judo as 'the gentle sport,' its literal translation.


Olympic bronze medalist Jimmy Pedro and four-time Olympian Jason Morris were prepped as spokespersons. Catan wrote a main press release detailing the upcoming event, offering Pedro and Morris as prime interview subjects.

The release was sent to key members of the Denver media, along with Judo magazines and rules of the sport. An on-site auction for uniforms signed by Olympic team members was also arranged. Pedro and/or Morris were booked on three major TV morning shows. An on-air ticket giveaway was arranged with all-sports radio station KTLK. B-roll was also sent to stations, featuring flying leaps, over-the-back throws and other Judo spectacles.

'There was no audio, and it went right to the exciting stuff,' Catan said. 'We wanted the media and the viewers to see the juice up front.'


KWGN (WB), KUSA (NBC) and KMGH (ABC) showcased the Judo champions on their morning shows. The Rocky Mountain News ran a feature, and major media outside the area, including USA Today, the Chicago Tribune and the Associated Press also wrote features.

'People had never seen this type of top spin on the Open because there had never been an aggressive campaign before,' Catan says. 'The event drew more people than it ever had, not bad considering it had never been held in Denver. Membership in USA Judo has increased since the event.'

Catan says he wishes he had held a public Judo clinic before the event, whetting the appetite of potential fans with demonstrations by top talent scheduled to appear in the Open.

'That was something I did with a campaign promoting (boxer) Riddick Bowe, and it worked well, earning fan and media attention,' Catan said. 'I'm already planning something like that for next year.'


Catan says USA Judo doesn't yet have the funds to mount massive media campaigns. It will stick to its basic, grassroots approach when planning the event next year.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in