CAMPAIGNS: Sponsorship Marketing - Sears baits teens with pop icons

Client: Sears, Roebuck and Co. (Hoffman Estates, IL)

Client: Sears, Roebuck and Co. (Hoffman Estates, IL)

Client: Sears, Roebuck and Co. (Hoffman Estates, IL)

PR Team: Donnellon Public Relations (Chicago)

Campaign: ’Sears Presents Backstreet Boys Into the Millennium’ concert


Time Frame: May to December 1999

Budget: N/A

In an effort to broaden its market from mainstream middle-America into

other demo- graphic groups, especially teens - given the group’s immense

buying power - Sears decided to sponsor a planned fall ’99 tour by

popular pop group the Backstreet Boys. Donnellon Public Relations was

brought in to publicize the company’s connection with the tour. A

campaign was designed to reach teenage girls, the group’s primary fan

base, as well as their mothers, a core market for Sears.


The Donnellon team quickly discovered it needed to build a campaign

about the Backstreet Boys without much involvement by the members of the

group itself; the amount of time they would spend working with Sears was


The agency decided to stress events that involved fans and visuals that

would attract TV coverage. It also created a national program with

strong local elements in the tour’s 36 markets to enhance the

possibility of local coverage.


Sears’ sponsorship was announced at a May press conference at New York’s

Studio 54. Donnellon began distributing press kits two weeks before the

tour reached various cities. The tour ran from September 17 through

December 6, spanning the crucial back-to-school and fourth-quarter

selling periods for Sears.

On the national level, Entertainment Tonight had the opportunity to

cover a Sears commercial being shot by the group, and Access Hollywood

nabbed the exclusive on broadcasting the winners of a dollars 2,000

Sears shopping spree with the Backstreet Boys in Tampa.

Locally, Sears joined with Youth Service America to recognize one youth

volunteer in each tour market with a dollars 2,000 grant, tickets for

the local show and a backstage photo with the band. Members of the group

held a two-hour SMT to promote the awards and Sears’ sponsorship, with

local winners interviewed on local TV shows.

The Donnellon team also created ’fan billboards’ - giant signs fans

could autograph for the Backstreet Boys. It used the billboards in nine


Fans lined up for as long as two-and-a-half hours to sign the boards,

which were put in high traffic locations and attracted media coverage as



Sears saw a pickup in teen sales. The shopping spree giveaway attracted

the second-largest number of entries since Sears began using such promos

in 1994. Backstreet Boys posters and CDs sold out faster than expected,

and tour coverage included CNN, CNBC, Reuters, USA Today, Rolling Stone

and The New York Times. Sears is also tracking the success of the

program through use of its Pulse teen frequent buyer card, says Lee

Antonio, Sears’ director of PR for marketing. While declining to discuss

specifics, she says: ’The results are very solid.’


Donnellon will continue pitching trade pubs and long-lead national media

on results of the program. Sears intends to work with Donnellon on other

sponsorship-related programs, Antonio says.

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