CAMPAIGNS: Product PR - George’s sausage gets hard press

Client: JbarB Foods and George Foreman Sausage Products (Houston)
PR Team: Center for the Persuasive Arts (San Antonio)
Campaign: George Foreman Sausage Products launch
Time Frame: February and March 2000
Budget: dollars 6,700 in hard costs plus dollars 8,500 per month
retainer on one-year contract

Client: JbarB Foods and George Foreman Sausage Products (Houston)
PR Team: Center for the Persuasive Arts (San Antonio)
Campaign: George Foreman Sausage Products launch
Time Frame: February and March 2000
Budget: dollars 6,700 in hard costs plus dollars 8,500 per month
retainer on one-year contract

Client: JbarB Foods and George Foreman Sausage Products (Houston)

PR Team: Center for the Persuasive Arts (San Antonio)

Campaign: George Foreman Sausage Products launch

Time Frame: February and March 2000

Budget: dollars 6,700 in hard costs plus dollars 8,500 per month

retainer on one-year contract



If you use the term ’hot link’ in East Texas, you’re more likely

ordering lunch at a barbecue joint than chatting about a trendy Web

site.



These artery-clogging sausages boosted post-retirement income for East

Texas football hero Earl Campbell and his former Houston Oilers’ coach,

Bum Phillips. Both have established their own brands. JbarB Foods teamed

up with retired boxing champ George Foreman to create another line after

Campbell moved production from JbarB to his own plant.



To launch the new links, George Foreman Sausage Products hired the

Center for the Persuasive Arts, a San Antonio integrated marketing firm

that recently changed its name from the Atkins Agency. The company was

given a small budget to differentiate the new product from other

sports-related Texas sausage brands.





Strategy



The agency decided to roll out promotions city by city. In the first,

San Antonio, it concentrated on generating ’street buzz’ instead of

column inches. ’For a product, you can’t get ink unless you can buy it,’

says media relations director Ken Slavin, recognizing the difficulty in

interesting news departments in commercial products. The firm decided to

blanket San Antonio with messages about a mysterious ’George’ the week

of the local rodeo.





Tactics



The agency plastered George’s name everywhere. Although Slavin said the

company had no advertising budget, his firm did pay for billboards to

complement a stealth PR campaign. People wearing ’George Likes It Hot’

sandwich boards staked out sidewalks in front of restaurants and

newsrooms.



Window-clinging stickers appeared on windshields, and magnets showed up

in elevators around town.



Project leader Melody Campbell-Goeken set up an anonymous e-mail account

and sent rhyming teasers daily to a list of 500 reporters and business

leaders. ’Plants’ called newsrooms and radio talk shows to ask who

George might be. Speculation favored George Bush (the elder), who was

visiting San Antonio, and local country singer George Strait.



A plane flew banners across downtown and over the crowded rodeo

grounds.



The agency videotaped one flight and anonymously sent it as b-roll to

local television stations. Key reporters received daily gifts such as

Red Hot candies. To reveal the secret the morning before Foreman

appeared at the rodeo, staff delivered packages of hot links to local

newsrooms.





Results



The client began stocking hot links in Texas grocery stores during

September.



John Foshee, managing partner of George Foreman Sausage Products, says

the company moved as much of the product during the first sales period

following the San Antonio event as it had in all previous months

combined.



The agency says sales went from about dollars 7,000 a month to dollars

7,000 a week.



Susan Yerkes, lifestyle columnist for the San Antonio Express News, says

office talk prompted her to respond to the anonymous e-mails and request

an advance interview. ’I wouldn’t say it totally overwhelmed the public

consciousness,’ Yerkes comments, although a couple of people outside the

newsroom brought George up in conversation. Her column ran the weekend

of Foreman’s appearance.



A KMOL (NBC) weathercaster named George used the b-roll in live standups

from the rodeo, and stories about Foreman’s visit ran on the local Fox

affiliate and a Spanish-language station. Other news squeezed the event

off the lineup at KENS (ABC), while KSAT assignment editor Michael

Pearson called the campaign ’a waste of money.’ A news story ’would have

just been an ad for him,’ Pearson says. DJs at 10 radio stations

discussed the George phenomena or did interviews.



Due to time constraints and Foreman’s hometown popularity, the agency

dispensed with intrigue for the Houston rodeo appearance a few days

later.



Three network affiliates ran stories, and the sausage was featured in a

Houston Chronicle food column.





Future



Since George is already out of the bag, the center likely will use

somewhat different approaches at events planned for four other Texas

cities. In addition to hot links, the firm will promote an expanded line

of beef and pork ring sausages.



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