CAMPAIGNS: Reeve’s walk gets talk for Nuveen - Branding PR

Client: Nuveen Investments (Chicago)

Client: Nuveen Investments (Chicago)

Client: Nuveen Investments (Chicago)

PR Team: Martin Public Relations (Richmond and New York City); Cobeycom

Communications (Chicago)

Campaign: Promotion of Nuveen’s Super Bowl commercial

Time Frame: December 1999 to February 2000

Budget: About dollars 100,000 (PR only)

When people talk about the recent Super Bowl, two things prove

memorable: the game’s dramatic conclusion and the equally dramatic

commercial in which paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve appears to walk


The commercial by Nuveen Investments sought to drive home the idea that

advances are possible with proper planning for the future. And while

Nuveen’s Super Bowl commercial may have been seen by an estimated 130

million viewers, the surrounding publicity campaign generated an

estimated 275 million impressions.


Since his injury, there’s been a tremendous amount of interest in

Christopher Reeve. His participation in the Super Bowl commercial had

the potential to generate significant attention for Nuveen Investments.

However, part of the challenge for Martin PR was to keep the focus on

the investment firm’s business objectives rather than on Reeve

’walking.’ PR also was considered essential for television viewers to

understand that the commercial was a dramatic representation and that

Reeve wasn’t actually walking.

Chris Allen, VP for PR at Nuveen, says pitching the idea to Reeve was

not difficult, because the actor agreed with Nuveen’s message. ’Our

message is about thinking in a new way about wealth ... and how you can

use wealth to improve life,’ Allen says. ’(Reeve) is an activist in his

own area to raise money for research, and our message gave him an

opportunity to get his message out.’


In advance of the Super Bowl, considerable effort by Martin PR went into

targeting coverage on business - rather than advertising and media -


To generate targeted coverage, the initial PR effort focused on offering

the story as an exclusive to a major newspaper. Much of the early

publicity success can be traced to the story in the Money section of USA

Today, which appeared on the Wednesday before the Super Bowl. That story

triggered the initial wave of media interest and resulted in a CBS

interview two days later with Nuveen’s CEO, Tim Schwertfeger.

Additionally, a video news release distributed on the Friday before the

game contained not only the commercial and behind-the-scenes footage,

but also an interview with Schwertfeger. The VNR increased viewership of

the spot during the game and also helped minimize any debate on the

commercial in advance of the Super Bowl.

For follow-up media inquiries, Reeve was provided with briefing points

on Nuveen’s philosophy and ad campaign for background use in interviews

generated by the commercial.


The VNR aired on about 230 stations, with additional broadcast exposure

on network entertainment and news programs - including NBC’s Today show

and syndicated program Entertainment Tonight. In total, the VNR

generated about dollars 2 million of free airtime. The story appeared in

publications with a combined circulation of 62 million.’We knew from the

get-go that this was going to be a very dramatic ad and create a lot of

conversation,’ says Nuveen’s Allen.

The campaign wasn’t completely successful, though. In a spat played out

in the media, the National Spinal Cord Injury Association reported

getting calls from some disabled people who wanted to find out how Reeve

was cured.

And the actor was taken to task by some for instilling false hope. But

Nuveen itself appeared to escape most of the criticism.

Despite all the attention to Reeve ’walking,’ Allen says that many more

people know of Nuveen now than before the commercial and its surrounding



Nuveen is considering one-on-one meetings with business media and the

brokerage community to explain the rationale behind the commercial and

to introduce/reintroduce the investment community to Nuveen Investments.

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